Just nine of the 32 FA Cup third-round ties were making use of VAR, inviting questions about the integrity of the competition.
This game was one of those that did — and it made little difference in clearing up any controversy.
A low-key affair was all but settled by a goal questionably awarded to West Ham despite VAR Peter Bankes and his team having the opportunity to review the incident over and over again.
Manuel Lanzini stuck his tongue out in celebration after he broke the deadlock for West Ham
The Argentine was able to find a pocket of space and fire beyond the retreating Leeds defence
Luke Ayling on the line could do nothing to keep out Lanzini’s finish – but it was sent to the VAR
Jarrod Bowen (centre) was offside in the move but the VAR adjudged he had not interfered
Amid a first-half scramble in the Leeds box, Jarrod Bowen’s intervention from an offside position was overlooked and Manuel Lanzini’s goal was given after a lengthy review.
There was no debate about Bowen’s clinical finish with the last meaningful kick of the game which capped another lively display.
The defining moment, though, was the officials’ debatable first-half call. In the 34th minute, Nikola Vlasic gathered Michail Antonio’s cross and wriggled away from Leo Hjelde.
Centre back Hjelde commendably held up Vlasic with a last-ditch tackle and Illan Meslier tried to grab the loose ball but missed. Then Junior Firpo attempted to kick it clear but only succeeded in presenting it to Lanzini who gleefully swept in the opener.
Leeds arrived in east London decimated by injuries as Sam Greenwood took aim from distance
Marcelo Bielsa (right) barked instructions at his players as Leeds looked to gain a foothold
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Areola 7; Fredericks 7, Diop 6.5, Dawson 6.5, Johnson 6.5; Rice 8, Soucek 6; Bowen 8, Lanzini 7 (Fornals 76, 6), Vlasic 7 (Masuaku 88); Antonio 7.5 (Yarmolenko 95).
Subs not used: Randolph, Fornals, Noble, Masuaku, Král, Oko-Flex, Alese, Baptiste
Scorer: Lanzini 34, Bowen 93
Manager: David Moyes 7
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Meslier 7.5; Ayling 6.5 (Forshaw 60, 6), Llorente 6, Hjelde 6.5 (Summerville 78), Firpo 7 (Drameh 68, 6); Koch 6, Bate 6; James 6, Klich 6, Harrison 6; Greenwood 5 (Raphinha 46, 6).
Subs not used: Klaesson, Dallas, McCarron, Jenkins, Moore
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa 5
Referee: Stuart Attwell 5
While Lanzini ran off celebrating, Leeds protested and, it appeared, with good reason.
Meslier’s effort to tidy up the situation had been hampered by a seemingly offside Bowen, who moved in to try to pounce.
As the VAR check continued, Leeds seemed so certain the goal would be chalked off that Luke Ayling returned the ball from halfway to his goalkeeper to restart the game with a free-kick but, to some surprise, referee Stuart Attwell gave the goal. Ultimately, however, West Ham deserved their place in round four.
They named a strong side, despite David Moyes’ annoyance that they are back in Premier League action for the rearranged meeting with Norwich on Wednesday.
But decimated Leeds, who also had a late penalty shout ignored when the score was still 1-0, had good grounds to feel aggrieved at the decision that set them on the way to a fifth successive third-round exit.
Missing 10 players including striker Patrick Bamford, Marcelo Bielsa was forced to hand full debuts to Lewis Bate, Sam Greenwood and Hjelde — all teenagers — and the opening goal was a tough one to take.
Ayling found himself busy in the early exchanges as he was on hand to block a strike on the line
He could do nothing about Lanzini’s goal and their subsequent VAR appeals were waved away
MARK CLATTENBURG: POOR CALL ON IRONS OPENER
West Ham’s opening goal should not have stood. Jarrod Bowen was offside and had an impact.
But I’ll explain why VAR Peter Bankes decided Bowen was onside. The moment West Ham attacker Nikola Vlasic attempted to shoot, Bowen was clearly offside.
Leeds defender Leo Hjelde did well to block Vlasic’s effort and, while on the ground, he got a second touch to the ball which took it towards goalkeeper Illan Meslier. Bankes deemed that a deliberate act which, in the VAR’s mind, made Bowen onside because it came after Vlasic’s shot.
I disagree. I don’t think that was a deliberate act by Hjelde. Even when he stood up, he was spinning round because he didn’t have a clue where the ball had gone. Bowen lunged in front of Meslier, who could not stop Manuel Lanzini scoring.
Leeds can feel rightly aggrieved that West Ham took the lead in this way. A different official would have disallowed the goal for offside.
Sidelined captain Liam Cooper tweeted: ‘Shambles,’ with two angry face emojis. But Bielsa preferred to maintain his position of refusing to criticise officials.
He said: ‘It’s a collaboration us coaches/managers should make to accept the decisions of the referees even if they jeopardise us. The decision to accept the decision helps their job and the spectacle.’
Fans were made to wait as the VAR watched the move over and over before awarding the goal
There was a level of animosity between the home (right) and away (left) fans after the first goal
West Ham manager David Moyes said: ‘Maybe it’s a VAR decision that’s gone for us. We’ve had a few recently which we don’t feel have, so we’ll take that one.’
The first half-hour had not been much of an advert for the competition. Then came some messy defending from Leeds and the controversial opener. By half-time West Ham’s advantage should have been greater. Antonio fired wide on the stretch and Ryan Fredericks could not apply the finishing touch to a flowing move involving Bowen, who had earlier had an effort cleared off the line.
West Ham had the better openings in the second half before Jack Harrison and Daniel James blew chances to force extra-time for Leeds.
Bowen slipped Antonio’s pass through Meslier’s legs to seal a fourth-round trip to non-League Kidderminster.