Dominant Hammers Overcome Toothless Toffees To End Premier League Season On High
David Moyes’ dominant Hammers eased to a 3-1 victory over Sam Allardyce’s Everton at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon to end what has been a turbulent Premier League campaign on a high, having secured safety from relegation last weekend.
The hosts took the lead late in the first half and deservedly so as Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini put the finishing touches on a silky team move, before Hammer of the Year and top-scorer Marko Arnautovic doubled that advantage after the break.
The Toffees were given hope of a comeback 15 minutes from time when Oumar Niasse rewarded his manager for selecting him to start, but those dreams would be shattered a short while later, Lanzini getting his second from range with a stunning effort.
The closing three points weren’t quite enough to give West Ham the top half finish that they craved, although they did move them up two places to 13th in the final standings, while a loss did nothing to move the visitors in the table, keeping hold of eighth spot due to Tottenham Hotspur’s thrilling 5-4 victory over Leicester City.
From the start on a warm day in East London, and for the second match in succession, home manager Moyes decided on an unchanged starting Xl, from last Thursday’s goalless home draw with Manchester United.
Many had expected the Scot to make changes for the final game of his current contract, instead sticking with Adrian San-Miguel in goal, a back five of Pablo Zabaleta, Declan Rice, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku, slipper Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate in defensive midfield, with Joao Mario and Manuel Lanzini supporting lone striker Marko Arnautovic, vying for his 11th of the season.
Whereas, visiting boss Allardyce did bring alterations to the table, just two of them, however, from the draw with Southampton last weekend at Goodison Park, one that secured the Irons’ survival.
One of them was a largely defensive decision, centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori starting for the first time in over a year, taking the place of DR Congo winger Yannick Bolasie, with a straighter swap occurring further up the field, Nikola Vlasic out and Oumar Niasse in.
Right from the very off at London Stadium, where a much more jubilant atmosphere filled the air from the perspective of the home supporters, the Hammers largely controlled and dictated the play in most areas.
The home players were certainly giving the home fans something to cheer about, at last, with some eye-catching football throughout the match and namely in the first minute when the ball was worked to Lanzini from the right, the Argentine unable to make the most of an excellent shooting opportunity from inside the penalty area.
It wouldn’t be long before the main man for Moyes’ men Arnautovic started to find his groove, his ferocious volley from close-range in the tenth minute was somehow stopped by an excellent Michael Keane block.
The ball then fell to home captain Mark Noble, who proceeded to exchange passes with the Austrian to get beyond the Everton defence, a strong hand from the busy Jordan Pickford stopped his shot from nestling in the bottom corner.
However, the tempo of the affair was soon damaged by an injury blow for the home side, wing-back Arthur Masuaku having his ankles clipped while he broke away on the counter-attack.
The Democratic Republic of Congo International continued initially, but eventually went back down off the ball, to be replaced by Edimilson Fernandes, cousin of ex-Toffees star Manuel.
Joao Mario, who could well have been playing his final match in Claret & Blue on loan from Inter Milan, almost signed off with a goal just before the half-hour mark, firing inches wide from range with his weaker foot after a clever quick free-kick.
Then, the best chance of the encounter thus far was presented up the other end, sloppy play from Angelo Ogbonna allowing Niasse a free run at Adrian San-Miguel, although the Spaniard was more than up to the task of miraculously denying him with his foot, fresh from a Man of the Match-contending performance against the Red Devils.
Immediately, the Hammers broke and Arnautovic should have played Lanzini in for his own one-on-one, just unable to, a reminder of who was on top in the contest.
And, before long, there would also be a reminder on the scoreboard as Lanzini got himself into a similar position Mario had moments early, and this time, made no mistake.
Intricate play on the right flank worked the ball into a promising area for Arnautovic, hake not able to reach it and half dummying it, the Austrian International left to the ball for his teammate.
This gave the No10 a clear sight of goal and just Funes Mori to negotiate, shooting with his left foot and finding the bottom corner to raise the roof on London Stadium and please his manager on the touchline.
Lanzini had been down and off injured mere minutes before, recovering well and Arnautovic looked to be struggling a little after a coming together with Pickford a short while later, replays showing that the England goalkeeper was fortunate to have escaped a yellow card.
The first period rather faded out with the Blue Boys of Merseyside chasing an equaliser, but never coming close to finding one before referee Graham Scott’s half-time whistle.
In an attempt to rally his depleted troops ahead of the second half, Allardyce made an attacking first substitution of the afternoon, Funes Mori the defender departed and summer signing Davy Klaassen took his place.
The change seemed to galvanise Everton for a period in the opening of the half as they obtained a corner and looked threatening, though it wouldn’t be long before the Hammers were back on the front foot.
Veteran Pablo Zabaleta, who has started all but one league game this season, was able to get his side’s first set-piece of the final 45 minutes of the season and from there, it would be all-West Ham.
A series of free-kicks in and around the box would all lead up to one moment of pure brilliance from a man that has been full of magic in the last few months, magic Marko.
Substitute Fernandes collected the ball on the left and looked inside, picking out Arnautovic with a positive pass, the ex-Stoke City star turned and glided past Three Lions hopeful Keane with ease.
This left him bearing down on goal from just outside the box to unleash a ferocious dipping strike that dumfounded Pickford and almost took the net off behind him, the goal epitomising Arnautovic’s form since the start of December and making things a lot more comfortable for the hosts.
While the ‘keeper should have probably have done better to keep out the striker’s 11th of the term, there was nothing he could do to deny his 12th, a header from an Aaron Cresswell free-kick.
At least, most of London Stadium thought it was a goal, linesman Dan Robathan had other ideas, raising his flag with Arnautovic marginally offside from the delivery.
Once again, the visitors hadn’t responded too badly to going behind and had their reward when counter-attacking after Mario wasting an opening, Niasse the man to set up an interesting final 15 minutes on 74.
The African was given a free run at Cresswell on the right side of the box, getting a shot off that was somehow saved against the post by the face of Adrian, he wasn’t so lucky with a following corner.
The cross came in and Morgan Schneiderlin looped a header back across goal, the ball eventually falling for Niasse to flick into his stride and finish neatly, the only highlight of a miserable afternoon for the away supporters.
The impressive Niasse finish couldn’t inspire a comeback from Allardyce’s men and rather, achieved the opposite, spurring the home side on to try to register a third, Arnautovic and Lanzini going close.
It would be the former to deliver the decisive goal and put the game to bed, doing so on a swift breakaway, bringing down a long Zabaleta ball with a dazzling piece of control.
The Argentina FIFA World Cup hopeful assessed his options and saw only one, shoot, bending a stunning effort into the far top corner via a touch from Pickford and the post.
With that, the game looked to be well and truly over, though the visitors showed a great deal of resilience, once again, almost making it 3-2 through substitute Theo Walcott twice.
His first attempt found the net from close-range only to see a flag up on the near side and his second was expertly saved by Adrian, the former Real Betis man also keeping out the rebound from Niasse with a remarkable stop.
Although, the final few minutes of the affair were dominated by one man coming off the substitutes’ bench, possibly for the last time after two spells amounting ten years at West Ham, seeing as his contract runs out in the summer.
Janes Collins was introduced in the closing stages by Moyes, maybe for a fond farewell and if it is to be, he certainly got one, being reduced to tears at points as the while ground rose to applaud and sing his name.
A nice note for Collins and perhaps ex-Everton boss Moyes too to end on with the emphatic closing victory, the contract of the Scot ran out at midnight that evening and it is unclear at this stage, whether or not he will be offered a new one.
As both club’s attention now turns to pre-season and the 2018/2019 season, the Toffees are in a similar position with their boss and former West Ham manager Allardyce, his contract has a little longer on it, but he is being swarmed with rumours day-in-day-out.
Hammer of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.
If you want to read more about David Moyes’ West Ham United’s Premier League season-ending victory over Sam Allardyce’s Everton, you can. Check out the archives of our Live Blog, which we brought live to you from the London Stadium Press Box throughout Sunday afternoon, our Five Main Talking Points and our Hammers Player Ratings, simply click on the links.