The London Stadium came of age last night, as bubbles rang out from the terraces and West Ham fans celebrated, whilst effectively ending keen rivals Tottenham’s Premier League hopes for another year.
The home team also banished any lingering mathematical chance there may have been of it getting drawn into the relegation fight – a threat that has been much over hyped in the media and no doubt fed by those who do not always wish the manager well.
A relieved West Ham boss Slaven Bilic praised his players for the character and determination they showed on the night. “The players deserve an enormous amount of praise for that performance,” said Bilic.
The manager turned to some of the problems that have dogged the club in this transition season from the old ground at Upton Park to the new London Stadium. “This is a great stadium. We needed time to adjust, maybe still need time to adjust. We need to do it week in week out as we did at Upton Park,” said Bilic, who has previously commented on how moving to a big stadium does not automatically make for a big club, something that it would seem not everyone associated with West Ham has always appreciated.
The manager spoke of “obstacles” that there had been this season but added that “it would be better to discuss these after the season rather than just now.”
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was disappointed with the result. “Today was a game that was difficult, they didn’t give us space to play,” said Pochettino, who also expressed his great pride in his team. “We needed to play in possession, move the ball a little bit more. “
The Spurs boss confirmed his team were still fighting for the Premier League title but that it is “a bit more difficult than before.”
West Ham certainly began the game on the front foot, denying the visitors space, particularly to link play between the midfield and strikers. Once again deploying three central defenders, West Ham were able to limit the Spurs full backs, eventually bringing their own two full backs Aaron Creswell and Sam Byram more and more into the game as an attacking force.
An early move saw Byram and striker Andre Ayew combine to send Jonathan Calleri clear but his shot went wide.
Spurs best moment in the first half came when first Harry Kane saw his shot pushed out by keeper Adrian to Deli Ali whose shot was then blocked by a defender. Kane then had a second chance but this was saved by Adrian.
Home fans were on their feet when Manuel Lanzini raced to meet a through ball, only to be clattered by Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris. Amazingly, referee Anthony Taylor waved play on.
Exchanges followed in the second half, with Son Heung-Min forcing a smart save out of Adrian.
It was the 64th minute that proved the turning point on the night, with Spurs failing to clear crosses from the left, first from Lanzini, then Cresswell. The ball was then put in from the other side by Byram, helped on by Ayew, which then left Lanzini an easy task to lash the ball home from the edge of the six yard box – the Spurs rearguard suddenly parting before him..Further chances then fell to the home side, with the industrious Calleri dispossessing a defender but then seeing his shot pushed aside by Loris. In the final minute, substitute Ashley Fletcher broke free, exchanging passes with Robert Snodgrass but saw his final effort go just wide of the post.
*published Morning Star - https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d509-Hammers-end-Tottenhams-chances-of-winning-Premier-League#.WRLCn6PdX4g