Football, Rugby, UFC, GAA
All free when you join eir Broadband
Champions League qualification is once again in Manchester City’s hands thanks to West Ham United’s dramatic 3-2 win at home to Manchester United.
Diafra Sakho’s deflected strike opened the scoring in the 10th minute of the Irons’ final game at their famous Boleyn Ground.
The Hammers failed to turn dominance into an extension of their advantage, and Anthony Martial stroked home Juan Mata’s centre to equalise early in the second half.
A fortunate effort from Martial had the visitors in front but headers from Michail Antonio and Winston Reid sent the old stadium’s faithful into raptures.
As Louis van Gaal’s shell-shocked men threw all that they had left at the hosts in the time remained, the Hammers held on to secure victory.
The defeat leaves the Red Devils two points behind rivals Man City in the race to finish in fourth place, with City travelling to Swansea and United hosting Bournemouth on the last day of the season.
The result further strengthens West Ham’s grip on a Europa League spot.
Kick-off for the encounter had been delayed by 45 minutes, after United’s team coach was caught in traffic and suffered a minor attack.
The Hammers displayed little sympathy for their guests, moving ahead when Sakho’s effort nicked off Daley Blind and spun past the reach of David de Gea, following intelligent approach work on the left from Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini.
After Dimitri Payet had struck straight at de Gea from the edge of the penalty area, Andy Carroll was put through clean on goal by Lanzini, but the former Liverpool striker’s poor finish allowed the visiting goalkeeper to save with his feet.
Antonio thought that he had doubled the hosts’ lead but Lanzini’s cross was correctly ruled to have gone out of play after striking Marcos Rojo, prior to Payet firing wildly off target with the visitors stretched and outnumbered.
United spent much of the first period attempting to stay just one behind, although Wayne Rooney’s cross presented Marcus Rashford with a decent chance to head the away side level. The teenager, however, was successfully put off by Angelo Ogbonna.
Six minutes into the second half, Rashford proved his worth, latching onto a long kick-out from de Gea and feeding Mata, who skilfully pulled the ball square for Martial to easily net from six yards.
In response to the equaliser, Payet went close from distance before Sakho, who had earlier missed a good headed chance with the score at 1-0, awkwardly nodded a Payet free-kick off target and a Carroll attempt was cleared off the line by Martial.
The visitors punished the Hammers by moving ahead inside the final quarter of the clash, as Rooney’s collection of a loose ball allowed Rashford to play a pass wide for Martial, who skinned Winston Reid and beat Darren Randolph at the near post with what was almost certainly an attempted centre.
West Ham quickly levelled through a well-placed Antonio header from Payet’s delivery, after the Frenchman’s initial free-kick had been blocked.
Following a foul by Antonio Valencia on Cresswell, another dead-ball strike from Payet allowed Reid to turn a header on target, with de Gea unable to stop the powerful attempt from crossing the line.
With the away side firing several deliveries into the penalty area late on, the hosts held out without too much fuss to give a fitting send off to the famous ground, which was bathed in the light of fireworks following the final whistle.
The victory ensures that European football will almost certainly grace the East London club’s new home, the Olympic Stadium, next season
Indeed, should West Ham better United’s result on the final day - the Irons play away to Stoke City – Slaven Bilic’s men will beat van Gaal’s troops to fifth place.
By David Maher