West Ham United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Manuel Lanzini all but killed off Tottenham’s lingering title hopes with the goal that ended their nine-game winning streak in the league and ensured West Ham’s own top-flight survival.
Lanzini struck from close range in the 65th minute of a pulsating London derby that finally brought West Ham’s new home to life, and left Spurs looking like they have too much to do if they are to overtake Chelsea.
The Blues still have a four-point lead but now have a game in hand, beginning with a home tie against Middlesbrough on Monday, and Antonio Conte’s men are too good to look this gift horse in the mouth.
Spurs were simply not at the races, and although they dominated the game in terms of possession, created few clear-cut chances against Slaven Bilic’s men, who defended with the determination their manager showed in his prime as a player. Although it was the infamous battle of Stamford Bridge that finally ended Tottenham’s title hopes last May, it was a defeat at West Ham in March that ended a long unbeaten league run and started to put the skids under them.
It was the best result of their season last year, and this was the same, restoring local pride to a side who have struggled since their move to London’s Olympic Stadium, giving a worrying glimpse of what could lay ahead for Tottenham, who will play next season at Wembley before moving to their new 61,000 seater stadium in 15 months time.
Bilic’s future is the subject of much speculation, after an anti-climactic second season following his promising first year. Before kickoff, the only time West Ham had really put on a show for their supporters was in the EFL Cup victory over Chelsea last October.
But they had won only six home league games, all against opponents at the wrong end of the table.
The lack of atmosphere at the stadium was one reason, but there was no excuse last night as both home and away supporters found their voices and created a proper London derby feeling.
Tottenham took control from the beginning, playing their neat and patient passing football with the confidence of a side on a run of nine successive league victories. West Ham were left chasing shadows in the early stages, as Harry Kane peppered Adrian’s goal three times with shots, having one well saved after his first attempt was blocked.
But West Ham had their chances on the break, too, with full-back Sam Byram heading over the bar and Manuel Lanzini shooting wide of the far post. The Argentinian playmaker was at the centre of the first-half’s most controversial moment, in the 27th minute, when he ran clear of the Spurs defence only to find Hugo Lloris rushing out of his area. The goalkeeper got the ball but also took out Lanzini, and when referee Anthony Taylor waved play on, Cheikh Kouyate chipped the loose ball high and wide.
Conscious perhaps that a point would be enough to pretty much ensure Premier League survival, West Ham were content to let Tottenham have the majority of possession and look for counter-attacks. Kane was largely well shackled by Winston Reid, although the Kiwi was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on Victor Wanyama.
So often this season, when Kane has been quiet or absent, Heung Min Son, Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen have stepped up to the plate, but that free-scoring trio also struggled to make headway. Eriksen had a couple of tame efforts blocked, while Son’s best shot, arrowed low across goal after an hour, was tipped away well by Adrian.
And within minutes, West Ham took the lead. Aaron Cresswell delivered a deep cross from the left that the Spurs defence failed to clear, and suddenly outnumbered, Tottenham’s defenders looked panic-stricken. It was justified, as the ball was fed back from the right, and although Lanzini was in a central position five yards from goal, he had the time and space to drive the ball with deliberation past Lloris.
Home supporters erupted with joy, the bubble machine blew soapy baubles across the pitch, and West Ham rediscovered their sense of joy – and purpose. Pochettino quickly made changes, sending on Mousa Dembele and Vincent Janssen in a bid to get a goal back, but the Hammers went closest to scoring next, when Jonathan Calleri was given a clear sight of goal from ten yards, only to see Lloris tip his shot away.
Spurs kept pushing but could find no way through a stubborn rearguard. Eriksen shot wide, Kane was blocked again and Alli was frustrated – as were his team-mates, on another miserable night for them in East London.
WEST HAM 3-4-3:
Adrian 7; Fonte 7, Reid 8, Collins 7, Byram 7, Kouyate 6, Noble 6, Cresswell 7; Ayew 6 (Snodgrass 85), Calleri 6 (Fletcher 88), Lanzini 8 (Fernandes 90+1)
Subs not used:
Randolph, Nordtveit, Rice,Feghouli,
Lloris 6; Walker 6 (Trippier 80), Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6 (Dembele 67), Davies 6; Dier 6, Wanyama 7(Janssen 73); Eriksen 7, Alli 6, Son 6; Kane 6
Subs not used:
Vorm, Wimmer, Sissoko,, N’Koudou,
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved