Awoniyi’s debut home goal ends N’Forest’s 23-year wait for EPL victory
Taiwo Awoniyi was the hero for Nottingham Forest against West Ham in the club’s first English Premier League win.
Awoniyi made history in the 47th minute goal gave Nottingham Forest their first Premier League home win for 23 years as the club, best known for Brian Clough’s heroics in the 1970s and 1980s.
The City Ground had not hosted a top-flight match since 1999 and Awoniyi ensured it was a winning homecoming for Forest with his first-half goal.
The striker, who until Saturday night was the club’s record signing this summer, bundled home from close range to become the first Forest player to score a Premier League goal since Chris Bart-Williams years ago.
It got them up and running after defeat at Newcastle on the opening weekend and, on this evidence, Steve Cooper’s men are going to be a welcome addition to the top flight.
However, they lived on the edge for the better part of the second half, with goalkeeper Dean Henderson playing a big role in keeping the three points as he saved Declan Rice’s second-half penalty.
He also made several other saves while Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma both hit the underside of the crossbar for the luckless Hammers, with the latter also seeing an opening goal ruled out by VAR in the first half.
West Ham boss David Moyes was left scratching his head as to how his side were on the losing side, but with two defeats from two, the Hammers will need to kickstart their season soon.
Forest fans had waited 8,492 days to sing their famous anthem ‘Mull of Kintyre’ ahead of a Premier League match and they put in a performance worthy of the wait, producing a spine-tingling atmosphere.
And their side fed off that as they made an electric start in the opening 15 minutes, playing with high intensity and surging forward at speed.
West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had to be on the alert to tip over Vladimir Coufal’s clearance that went wrong before Awoniyi flashed a header just wide from a fine Neco Williams cross.
The Hammers were in danger of being overran, but were able to get a foothold in the game and thought they had taken the lead in the 42nd minute, only for VAR to intervene.
Breaking quickly from a Forest set-piece, Rice slipped in Benrahma and he slotted home into the bottom corner. But Forest felt Orel Mangala was impeded in the build-up as did VAR official Michael Salisbury and then, after viewing the pitchside monitor, referee Robert Jones agreed and the goal was chalked off.
Perhaps inevitably, just minutes later Forest went ahead in first-half stoppage time. Harry Toffolo surged into the area and cut back perfectly to Jesse Lingard, who looked destined to score against his old club, but he scuffed his shot.
Luckily Ben Johnson diverted it on to the knee of Awoniyi and the ball ended up in the bottom corner.Forest thought they had made the game safe with a second goal, but they suffered their own VAR misfortune as the goal was disallowed.
Mangala barged through and played in Brennan Johnson to poke home, but from an offside position. It was 100mph stuff and West Ham were again a lick of paint from an equaliser as Benrahma was denied by the woodwork, when his 20-yard free-kick hit the underside of the crossbar and into the grateful hands of Henderson.
West Ham thought their moment had finally come midway through the second half as they were awarded a penalty. However, Henderson, who is notoriously good at saving penalties, got down low to keep out Rice’s effort.
Forest then needed Williams to clear Kurt Zouma’s header off the line as West Ham pushed for a leveller, but nothing was going to stop this being Forest’s day.