After sailing a little too close to the wind during their 3-2 league victory against Crystal Palace, West Ham happily accepted an afternoon free of drama.
Manuel Lanzini gave them a deserved lead at the end of a drab first half and David Moyes’s side cruised from there, comfortably keeping Leeds at arm’s length and sealing their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup thanks to a professional and mature display.
For Moyes, satisfaction came from seeing his side keep a first clean sheet since 12 December. Leeds kept plugging away, Jack Harrison and Dan James spurning chances to force extra time, but West Ham were rarely under siege once Lanzini’s opener had survived a VAR check for offside. Declan Rice was always in charge in midfield and Marcelo Bielsa’s defenders spent most of the contest bouncing off Michail Antonio, a barnstorming presence who was still going deep into added time, racing clear down the right to set up Jarrod Bowen’s clincher.
“I want to try and go far in the Cup,” Moyes said. “We tried to go close in the Carabao Cup. We had a lot of opportunities today. On another day we might have scored more. But I’m really pleased we kept a clean sheet. Leeds cause you problems because of how they play. This is one of the toughest ties drawn out in this round.”
It would have been harder had Leeds not turned up with eight key players missing. West Ham picked their strongest available side and threatened from the start, Bowen seeing a shot cleared off the line by Luke Ayling and a deflected shot from Antonio flying narrowly over.
Nothing was happening at the other end. With Tyler Roberts, Patrick Bamford, Joe Gelhardt and Rodrigo unavailable in attack, Leeds were woefully short of ideas during the opening period. Sam Greenwood, a 19-year-old forward, struggled to assert himself against Craig Dawson and Issa Diop after being handed his first start by Bielsa and there was rarely any threat from Leeds before the interval, a tame curling effort from Lewis Bate summing up their toothlessness.
There was no zest to Leeds, with Bate looking lightweight on his first appearance since joining from Chelsea last summer. Rice and Tomas Soucek were too strong for the 19-year-old midfielder and although West Ham rather spluttered as an attacking force at first, with Lanzini’s passing range slightly off and Antonio forced to play with his back to goal too much, there was always a sense that everything would come together sooner rather than later.
So it proved when Antonio finally grabbed a chance to turn and run down the left flank after another timid Leeds attack had broken down in the 34th minute. Claret and blue shirts stormed forward in support and Antonio had time to check back before jabbing a pass towards Nikola Vlasic, who shielded the ball from Leo Hjelde before showing good upper body strength to roll away from the Leeds centre-back and advance on Illan Meslier’s goal.