Declan Rice delivers again for West Ham on what could prove his emotional goodbye to east London
In a lighthearted first-half moment here at the London Stadium, Leeds manager Sam Allardyce spotted a misplaced five-pound note on the touchline, picked it up and jokingly offered it to the fourth official.
Considering some of the decisions that have gone against his side in recent weeks, David Moyes may not have quite seen the fun side. Declan Rice’s many suitors could no doubt have thought of a better use of the money, too.
Rice won’t come cheap this summer, with West Ham intent on a tough bargain in the hope of extracting a record British transfer fee.
But this is still expected to be the 24-year-old’s last home game in burgundy and blue and, if that turns out to be the case, then this – six years to the day after his debut – was a good one. way to sign.
The West Ham captain netted his equalizer here with a fine first-half finish, leveling the scores after Rodrigo’s opener, before Jarrod Bowen’s goal put the Hammers on course for a 3-win 1 which leaves Leeds watching the relegation barrel.
Rice celebrated her goal in gleeful fashion, sliding her knees past the home fans, her arms outstretched and a smile almost as wide, but the contrasting emotion of the occasion came through a little more evenly during a break in second half, when the midfielder appeared to pause and pull himself together as the London stadium sang, probably in vain, of their hopes for another few years.
After Thursday night’s Europa Conference League semi-final success at AZ Alkmaar, Moyes’ side might have been forgiven for a tired display, especially given the added emotional turmoil of the horrific post-whistle scenes from that game.
Instead, a solid team showing six changes fought back brilliantly from one goal to reach the legendary, but not particularly relevant, mark of 40 points a day after their survival was mathematically assured.
That win should have been sealed long before Manuel Lanzini’s decisive stoppage time, the substitute scoring his own final home appearance after a sensational run from Lucas Paqueta, was a damning indictment of a Leeds side expected to fight. for his life, who must now beat Tottenham at home on the last day of next weekend to have any chance of standing.
Pablo Fornals pleads for Prague
When Moyes rotated nearly his entire squad for last weekend’s trip to Brentford, it felt like nothing from his assistants would do much to alter the Scot’s thinking ahead of Thursday’s crucial game at Alkmaar . Unsurprisingly after a 2-0 loss, Moyes toppled all nine in the Netherlands.
The Hammers boss has taken a long time to agree on a first-choice XI this season, but if there is one player who could still upset him with a view to making the starting line-up in Prague, it could well be Fornals.
The Spaniard, fresh off his brilliant midweek decisive goal, received a second decibel-meter reception only for Rice when his name was read before kick-off and it was his delicious slicked pass that took allowed Bowen to cross for the skipper. leveler. Shortly after, there was another prolonged ovation as he strolled in for a corner, panting after winning the ball in his own box and running the length of the pitch to give Emerson a chance.
In a squad full of understudy at Brentford, Fornals didn’t stand out as worthy of regular inclusion, but surrounded by better, more phased players here, he made a more compelling case.
Defensive errors knock West Ham off course
It would be easy enough to look at the facts – a goal from a long throw-in, scored by a team coached by Allardyce – and conjure up a smirk at how quickly a team coached not too long ago by Marcelo Bielsa has adopted the more agricultural style associated (rightly or wrongly) with their interim boss.
In reality though, Weston McKennie’s celebration turning to the bench after Rodrigo came on unmarked to drive home his rushing delivery suggested a more considered plan: one weakness identified, one weakness exploited.
It was the second successive Premier League game in which the Hammers have been defeated by a long throw-in, with their defense even worse here than for Yoane Wissa’s second-place finish at Brentford last weekend.
These concessions are part of a wider trend which, strangely, has seen West Ham’s defensive solidity from set pieces evaporate in recent weeks, just as their power in the other box, once a mark of manufactures, came back late.
It is unlikely that she went unnoticed in Florence…