|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
West Ham and Mark Noble keep European dream alive by beating West Brom
Ed Aarons at The Hawthorns
Last modified on Sunday 1 May 2016 00.10 BST
Slaven Bilic singled out his captain, Mark Noble, after his two goals helped West Ham move above Manchester United into fifth place and boost their hopes of beginning life at their new home with a European campaign to look forward to. Noble’s toe-poke and a crashing volley from Andy Carroll’s cross means he has now scored four times in his last two matches, with the club he joined as a 13-year-old now odds on to at least secure a place in the Europa League for next season.
No wonder the visiting supporters sarcastically serenaded him with “Too good for England” at the final whistle.
The victory had been set in motion by Cheikhou Kouyaté’s header from a delightful Dimitri Payet cross after West Ham had ridden an early storm inspired by West Brom’s teenage winger Jonathan Leko.
But after watching his side take their chances, Bilic admitted he was delighted with the victory. “It was a great performance to come here and win,” he said. “They were better in the first 25 minutes – we were too sloppy and casual. But after that we started to play some good football. I’ve told him [Noble] so many times that his role is more a team player but today he was fantastic. It’s not just his goals today, he’s been exceptional for the whole season. When your holding midfielders score all your goals, you know you are playing great football.”
Leko was handed his full debut by Tony Pulis. That made the newly turned 17-year-old the eighth graduate of West Brom’s academy to be selected in a matchday squad this season.
In contrast, Bilic’s only homegrown player in an unchanged starting lineup was Noble, although their bench did feature their own talented teenager, Reece Oxford, who has been linked with a move to Manchester City in the summer.
A lack of depth in West Ham’s squad has undermined their push for a top four finish in recent weeks and last week’s victory over Watford was their first since the start of March. But even though there was still plenty to play for, initially it appeared that the hosts were more up for the fight. Within six minutes, Leko, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but moved to England aged eight after his father was granted asylum, showed why he is so highly rated in these parts.
England left-back hopeful Aaron Cresswell was dumped on his backside by a whirr of quick feet and Leko’s ball picked out Craig Gardner perfectly. Angelo Ogbonna cleared the first effort, before Adrián saved his follow up. Gardner was to spurn two further chances to put West Brom ahead before Kouyaté eventually opened the scoring. Payet’s cross to the back post was inch-perfect and the towering Senegal midfielder could simply not miss.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, a powerful surge down the left from Kouyaté caught West Brom napping and Noble was able to stab home his pass from just inside the penalty area.
Having begun their season way back on 2 July against the Andorran side Lusitano in the Europa League preliminary round, it was perhaps no surprise West Ham tired after the break.
The introduction of Saido Berahino briefly added some spark to West Brom’s attack but aside from one chance that he snatched at after being set up by Salomón Rondón, the comeback never really looked on.
“That little break that we needed just didn’t come,” said Pulis. “Once you give West Ham chances like that then they will punish you and they did. We’ve had our chances at home again but not taken them.”
Noble’s crashing volley 11 minutes from time sealed the victory in style, with the captain raising both arms aloft. These are heady days indeed for him and West Ham.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
WEST BROM (4-1-4-1): Foster 6; Dawson 5, McAuley 6, Olsson 5, Evans 5; Yacob 6 (Sandro 62, 6); Leko 7, Fletcher 5.5, Gardner 6.5 (Sessegnon 78), McClean 6 (Berahino 61, 6); Rondon 6
Subs not used: Myhill, Chester, Lambert, Sessegnon, Roberts
WEST HAM (4-4-2): Adrian 7; Antonio 7, Reid 7.5, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 6.5; Lanzini 7.5 (Oxford 87), Kouyate 8, Noble 8.5, Payet (Moses 81); Carroll 7, Sakho 6 (Emenike 66, 6)
Subs not used: Randolph, Tomkins, Collins,
Goals: Kouyate 34,Noble 45,79
Referee: Lee Mason 6
Star man: Noble