West Ham United secured Premier League safety without kicking a ball on Saturday. However, they still wanted to follow up their UEFA Europa Conference League success on Thursday night in their last home game on Sunday afternoon and did so by defeating Leeds United 3-1.
Only Kurt Zouma, Tomáš Souček, Declan Rice, Lucas Paquetá and Jarrod Bowen retained their places from the win over AZ Alkmaar, as David Moyes made six changes. Vladimír Coufal had recovered from a hamstring injury to take his place in defence, while Łukasz Fabiański, Angelo Ogbonna, Emmerson Palmieri, Pablo Fornals and Danny Ings replaced Alphonse Areola, Aaron Cresswell, Thilo Kehrer, Saïd Benrahma and Michail Antonio who all dropped to the bench. Youngster Divin Mubama was also included in the matchday squad. Nayef Aguerd was one of the players that picked up a knock after the match three days earlier, while Flynn Downes wasn’t even involved, due to illness.
If there was any signs of fatigue among Moyes’ men, following their exploits in Europe they certainly didn’t show it in the opening stages as they were passing the ball with ease. They probably should have made one of the moves count, as Sam Allardyce’s side went in front with only seventeen minutes gone. A long throw-in was played to Rodrigo Moreno and he gave Fabiański no chance as the ball flew past him.
In attempting to find a response, West Ham piled on the pressure and forced a number of corners. The set-pieces were really causing the visitors problems but they did manage to hook them away from danger.
Souček went close to finding the net when he picked up possession after Ings had headed the ball into a dangerous area but unfortunately, visiting goalkeeper Joel Robles was on hand to thwart the Czech international.
Before the action got underway, the club’s annual Hammer of the Year award was presented to Captain Rice and he didn’t forget to thank the fans who voted for him, as he came up with a magnificent equaliser, just seventeen minutes after the Irons went behind. To be fair to the skipper, it was a good strike too!!!
Fornals set up Bowen, who lofted the ball into the box and found the midfielder to finish the chance off when he volleyed past Robles and into the net to bring loud acclaim from the majority inside the stadium.
Paquetá might have doubled the advantage for the hosts before the break. The ball fell to him in a promising position but he got too much on it and he sent an effort over the top.
Referee Peter Bankes then blew the whistle and although they had guaranteed another season of top-flight football in Stratford, the Hammers wanted to give the fans a good sendoff for the summer.
Before the teams reemerged from the dressing rooms, Moyes decided to make his first change, as he replaced Zouma with Kehrer.
Rejuvenated after his chance at the end of the first-half, Paquetá was straight into the action when Bankes restarted the match. He set himself up for a long-range shot but Robles managed to deal with the threatening effort.
Bowen then had another chance but, had he found the net, it wouldn’t have counted, as the former Hull City winger was in an offside position.
The same player then somehow got in the way of Ings when he tried to add his name to the scoresheet. Unfortunately the ball hit Bowen and the chance was gone. Moments later, the former Wigan Athletic and Everton stopper got a vital touch on Souček’s firm header.
West Ham were back in the ascendancy again and regained the lead on seventy two minutes. Paquetá played the ball through to Ings, who then spotted Bowen and he did the rest. He prodded the ball towards goal, it took a deflection off the goalkeeper’s arm and left the Spaniard helpless. After a VAR check for offside, it was confirmed that nothing was wrong and the goal stood.
Both Coufal and Ogbonna went down with injuries late on in the game but thankfully, after lengthy treatment, both were able to continue.
Moyes’ men should have really been out of sight but they almost let Leeds back into the contest. Fortunately, just as Crysencio Summerville took the ball around Fabiański, Palmieri got a timely block in.
On eighty four minutes, Moyes brought on Manuel Lanzini to take the place of Bowen.
Due to the injuries, seven minutes of time were added and the Irons’ boss made two further changes with Ben Johnson and Mubama entering the fray for Fornals and Ings.
After the changes were made, the East Londoners then went on to make the points safe. With three minutes of time still to play, Paquetá set up Lanzini, who smashed the ball past Robles.
Mubama nearly added a fourth in the dying seconds but unfortunately, the youngster was unable to claim what would have been his first league goal for West Ham.
The Hammers can go past the 40 point mark with a win over Leicester City on Sunday afternoon as they make the journey to The King Power Stadium for the final game of the 2022/23 season.