There won’t have been too many distressed when referee Craig Pawson blew for full time here. Don’t let the goals fool you – this might have been the worst of Project Restart so far.
Only Tottenham Hotspur came away with any reason to smile. A 2-0 win gives them a first win of this concentrated finale, keeping them in touch of a Champions League spot ahead of Wednesday’s round of fixtures. There was also the commemoration of Harry Kane‘s 200th PL appearance for the club marked with his 137th goal. Only Sergio Aguero boasts a better ratio.
But if ever a goal summed up a match it was the opener as West Ham’s Tomas Soucek scuffed into his own net from a corner in the 64th minute. No one really knew what had gone on, least of all Soucek, and no one showed any emotion – celebration or otherwise. It was a moment no one was really proud of, least of all a West Ham side who are now that little bit closer to Bournemouth, with a worsened goal difference that now puts them within a one-goal deficit of 18th.
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If David Moyes wanted a reaction from their 3-0 defeat to Wolves, this was not it. Here was an eighth defeat in their last 11 Premier League game; a seventh successive loss away from home.
That being said, West Ham started brightest and loudest. If there was a moment that encapsulated that perfectly it was a shout of “don’t just pass it back to the f****** goalie” from Mark Noble.
It was on the deck and moving forward that they were able to get around Tottenham with ease, even though they saw half as much of the ball before the first drinks break, with Jarrod Bowen doing what he could off the right wing to take turns to share rebound board duties with Michail Antonio, the central forward.
You don’t stay up on decibels, of course. And West Hams are absolutely right to expect more than a bit of noise in a relegation scrap when they’ve spent over £100m on players this season. As it happened, they would only end up troubling the goal when Bowen struck the outside of the near post with 12 minutes left.
By then, Heung-min Son had momentarily put Tottenham ahead with a strike before half-time that was chalked off for an offside picked up by VAR, and Lucas Moura – in the starting line-up for Erik Lamela – wasted the best chance of the match, dragging wide of the far post in the third minute of first-half added time when he had time and space to do better.
With the scores level at the break, the clear takeaway was that both sides befitted from shifting the ball quickly. And while both had flashes of putting that into practice, supplementing it with meaningful quality proved a bridge too far.
Pablo Fornals dragged wide own 54 minutes after Noble and Bowen had fashioned a crossing opportunity from a tight space. Five minutes later, Harry Kane failed to find the right finishing touch on an engaging counter-attack. Antonio then responded with an embarrassing hack into the void of the second-tier when put through on goal.
Mercifully, a goal did arrive to at least give this game a different glint. Soucek was the unlucky claimant but, to be fair, most of the players on the pitch deserved to have a blemish next to their name after tonight.
The second, with eight minutes to go, settled the tie and wrestled back some credibility to a football match that up until that point had been a series of accidents.
West Ham’s high line was a necessary risk, but a premium was paid when Son was able to play in Kane, who began his run from his own half. The finish was academic, the 12th of a truncated season for the 26-year old, from his fifth shot on the night and first on target.
His celebration just about summed it up, falling to the floor, as tired as the rest of us at what had taken place tonight. Neither side will have learned much about themselves, but Spurs will certainly be resting easier.
With the very real prospect of dropping into the relegation zone this time tomorrow, the sleepless nights go on for West Ham.
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