Nottingham Forest claimed a tight 1-0 victory over West Ham at the City Ground as Taiwo Awoniyi scored the only goal of the game.
The hosts made an electric start, with Łukasz Fabiański forced into a superb save from Moussa Niakhate’s back-post header, while Awoniyi, making his first start for the club, nodded just wide.
Harry Toffolo’s last ditch block denied Tomas Soucek at the other end, before the Hammers thought they had taken the lead when Said Benrahma slid home, only for the goal to be ruled out after a VAR check because of a push on Orel Mangala in the build-up.
Two minutes later, Forest’s fans got the moment they have waited 23 years for as Awoniyi bundled home the opener. The striker, who signed from Union Berlin over the summer, was on hand to divert Jesse Lingard’s tame effort into the back of the net in the second minute of added time.
The second half started at a thunderous pace, with Pablo Fornals clattering the bar and Tomas Soucek seeing his rebound magnificently saved by Henderson, before Brennan Johnson thought he had doubled Forest’s lead, only to discover he was in an offside position when played through by Mangala.
West Ham then hit the bar through Benrahma’s free-kick and on 65-minutes they missed from the penalty spot, with Henderson diving low to his left to deny Rice after Scott McKenna was rightly penalised for handling Soucek’s shot.
TALKING POINT – SHOULD BENRAHMA’S STRIKE HAVE BEEN RULED OUT?
West Ham had the ball in the back of the net on 43 minutes when Declan Rice picked out Benrahma, who rounded off a rapid counter-attack by slotting past Henderson from inside the area.
However, the visitors’ defence had almost come to a stand-still in the build-up, anticipating the referee’s whistle after Mangala was barged to the ground by Michail Antonio.
Referee Rob Jones initially let the goal stand, but VAR asked him to take another look at it and he subsequently decided that Mangala would have come out to prevent Rice from making the defence spitting pass, and as such ruled chalked it off, a decision that not everybody, from fans to ex-professionals, agreed with.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest). Dean Henderson has already won plenty of admirers in his short career, and it was clear to see why on the basis of this stunning performance that almost single-handedly earned his side the three points.
The goalkeeper, on-loan from Manchester United, showed terrific handling throughout as he dealt with some tricky crosses, while he came into his own after the break when making some sublime stops, firstly by somehow reacting push Soucek’s point-blank range shot to safety after a Fornals thunderbolt had hit the bar.
Minutes later the heroics continued as he dived low to his right and clung onto Rice’s penalty, something that will have surely impressed England head coach Gareth Southgate, who watched on from the stands at the City Ground.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST: Henderson 9; McKenna 7, Niakhate 7, Worrall 7; Toffolo 8, Mangala 7, O’Brien 8, Williams 8; Lingard 5, Johnson 6, Awoniyi 7. Subs: Surridge 6, Cook n/a, Cafu n/a
WEST HAM: Fabianski 8; Johnson 7, Zouma 5, Coufal 6, Cresswell 6; Fornals 6, Rice 6, Soucek 7, Benrahma 6; Bowen 5, Antonio 7. Subs: Scamacca 6, Lanzini 6, Cornet n/a
43’ GOAL RULED OUT! Benrahma slides home confidently after being picked out by Rice, but, after consultation with VAR, Rob Jones rules it out because Antonio barged into Mangala in the build-up.
45+2’ GOAL! NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1-0 WEST HAM (Awoniyi). That one’s going to count! What an introduction for Awoniyi, who bundles home his first goal for the club after deflecting Lingard’s tame shot past Fabianski!
46’ STUNNING HENDERSON SAVE. What a start to the second half for the visitors. Fornals rattles the bar with a thunderbolt from 25-yards that bounces back to Soucek, who is denied from point blank range by a stunning Henderson save
55’ ANOTHER GOAL RULED OUT! Johnson superbly clips past Fabianski, but he was a shade offside when Mangala stabbed the ball through to him and VAR chalk it off.
65’ PENALTY SAVE! McKenna handles Soucek’s shot, with the referee awarding a penalty after looking at the replay, but Rice can’t convert from the spot as Henderson saves down to his right