West Ham United defender Aaron Cresswell produced a monster performance in victory over London rivals Fulham to outshine match-winner Tomas Soucek on Saturday.
Soucek struck the sole goal of the affair in the first minute of second-half stoppage-time to open his account for the season, before drama ensued when home debutant Said Benrahma caught Tom Cairney in the box to gift the Cottagers a late penalty.
But Fulham would not snatch a point in the final seconds after a VAR check confirmed the foul, as Ademola Lookman missed a tame Panenka-style effort that Lukasz Fabianski comfortably collected to keep his third clean sheet of the campaign thus far.
Soucek’s goal had delivered a late spark to what appeared to be a game heading for shared honours, though his driven effort could only seal the win for West Ham after Cresswell covered for a shaky Angelo Ogbonna performance to thwart Fulham throughout.
Cresswell had been one of the major unsung heroes of West Ham’s form earlier in the campaign, having moved into a new central defensive role after a summer spent seeing his position at left-back come under threat amid rumoured interest in the likes of Antonee Robinson, Ryan Manning, Robin Gosens and Emerson Palmieri.
But David Moyes did not welcome a new full-back to the London Stadium and, after a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United on the opening day, opted to switch things around and persist with a three-man defensive core.
Cresswell had played centrally under Moyes during his first stint in charge of the Irons, and is loving player there again after returning to a wide role under Manuel Pellegrini.
“I love it,” he told the club’s official website. “I played it when the gaffer first came in two-and-a-half-years ago. We were a bit short on defenders at the time and the gaffer asked if I’d ever played there.”
Cresswell’s joy for the role was clear as day against Fulham, as he offered a box-to-box threat with several set-pieces causing the Cottagers all sorts of problems. One of his deliveries also smashing against the crossbar early in the second half.
The 30-year-old was defensively solid, too, with success in his only attempted tackle alongside two clearances and an interception. He further won two of his four aerial contests and his sole ground duel, per SofaScore, while completing 69 of his 76 attempted passes.
Only Fabian Balbuena (77) attempted and completed (70) more passes for West Ham against Fulham than Cresswell, who proved Moyes’ hero with a game-high 101 touches and four key balls – double that of Soucek, the next-best creator for the Hammers on Saturday.
Cresswell is now far from the unsung hero he was just weeks ago, and is firmly one of the first names on Moyes’ teamsheets heading into the November international break.
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