Crystal Palace 4 – 3 West Ham United. Crystal Palace deservedly edged a seven-goal thriller against West Ham to reach the 40-point mark targeted by manager Roy Hodgson and leave the Hammers in relegation trouble.
Former England boss Hodgson has led Palace to four wins in six games since returning as manager last month to almost certainly guide the Eagles, now 11 points clear of the bottom three, to safety.
Kick-off in south London was delayed by 15 minutes because of an issue with the turnstiles – but there was no shortage of action once the match got under way.
Although West Ham took an early lead when Tomas Soucek punished Michael Olise’s failure to clear a corner, Palace swung the game in their favour with three goals in an impressive 15-minute spell.
Jordan Ayew levelled within six minutes with a first-time finish at the end a slick move, before the returning Wilfried Zaha finished from Eberechi Eze’s pass across the six-yard box and Jeffrey Schlupp added a third after dispossessing Soucek.
A superb first-half took another twist when West Ham again capitalised on a corner, Michail Antonio heading in at the back post to reduce the deficit before the break.
Eze’s penalty restored Palace’s two-goal advantage midway through the second half after he was judged to have been fouled by Nayef Aguerd – but the Hammers defender made amends as the visitors responded with a scrappy third from yet another set-piece.
However, David Moyes’ side could not find a late equaliser to boost their survival prospects and West Ham remain five points above the relegation places with five games remaining.
These are the days that 75-year-old Hodgson returned to management for.
Although Palace’s unbeaten start since his return to the club last month was ended at Wolves earlier in the week, a run of three wins and a draw had taken the Eagles to within touching distance of what Hodgson described as the “magical” 40 points required to confirm safety.
With the pressure seemingly lifted from his players’ shoulders, Hodgson welcomed back captain Zaha after a four-match absence with injury as part of a fluid attack that delivered joyous moments for the home support.
Accompanied by Olise, Eze, Ayew and Schlupp in an energetic front line, Palace were lively from the outset and did not allow their early setback to derail their afternoon.
Soucek, a constant menace at corners, kept West Ham in the match with his set-piece threat and it was the Czech midfielder who reacted quickest when Olise’s miscued header dropped in the six-yard box.
But, backed by a rocking Selhurst Park, the Palace response was emphatic.
Olise continued to display his promise and registered his ninth Premier League assist of the season – a tally bettered only by Kevin de Bruyne (16), Bukayo Saka (11) and Leandro Trossard (10) – when he picked out the run of Ayew for a well-taken finish before Ayew left Eze’s pass at the front post, allowing Zaha to slot in.
Schlupp was then rewarded for his determined pressing, rolling the ball under Lukasz Fabianski as Palace threatened to run riot.
West Ham, whose midweek loss to Liverpool was only their second defeat in 11 games in all competitions, have found form at a vital point of the season – and Moyes’ side were able to reduce the deficit before the interval through Antonio.
Yet while Moyes will likely feel aggrieved that Eze’s penalty was not overturned – Aguerd appeared to make minimal contact with the forward – he can have few complaints about the result.
Aguerd was awarded the Hammers’ third as he and Antonio combined at the back post to bundle in after Soucek’s flick-on, but Palace held on to earn a victory they deserved to all but secure their Premier League status.
West Ham, meanwhile, must watch on as their relegation rivals battle for points over the remainder of the weekend.
source – BBC