Fortunes Always Hiding – Champions Leagues hopes in Despair?

West Ham 0-1 Everton – A Massive blow to the Champions League hopes for the Hammers

After a weekend of strange results in the race for the top 4, it seemed like there was a massive opportunity for West Ham to climb into contention of reaching the heights and getting only 2 points behind Leicester, following their 4-2 defeat to Newcastle.

The Hammers met an Everton side that also had their eyes on a European place, with the Toffees having the advantage of a game in hand in the league table.  David Moyes’s side was unchanged, following a dominant display against Burnley, where West Ham registered 22 shots at the Burnley goal. The level of performance gave the Irons fans a lot of optimism as they played an Everton side that had only win in their previous seven matches.

The game started quite slowly with West Ham looking quite nervous and not displaying the same performance as they had done at Turf Moor, this may have been due to the physicality of the Everton midfield of Allan and Davies, who seemed more than happy to bully Lanzini, who had moved into a deep midfield role since both Noble and Rice have picked up injuries.

Everton opened the scoring, with a dangerous ball from Ben Godfrey cutting through the West Ham midfield, with Calvert-Lewin making a fantastic run across Craig Dawson allowing him to get in behind and through on goal, finishing with a shot across the face of the goal into the bottom left corner.

With David Moyes’s side going a goal down, a response was required with the expectation being the same as they had done against Burnley, but with Ancelotti’s side being so defensively strong, it looked an almost impossible job with ten players behind the ball for the majority of the fixture. And with only Manchester City being more impressive away from home with 13 wins to Everton’s 11, it seemed like it would be a difficult afternoon for David Moyes’s side.

Despite Everton defending well, West Ham did threaten with Fornal’s looping cross meeting Said Benhrama at the back post, with the Algerian alone in the box heading it over the bar, which seemed like the golden chance for West Ham to get the equaliser.

And with the physicality being a major factor in the midfield, West Ham was forced to make a change before the break with Lanzini being substituted with a strain for Jarred Bowen, it looked a shame for West Ham as Lanzini’s Monday performance being quite inspiring in the midfield and was hopefully going to be a perfect replacement for the injured Declan Rice.

West Ham still threatened after the second half, with Fornals shot being blocked by Tom Davies to knock wide for a corner.  And the pressure continued to mount with Coufal’s shot being fired across the box onto the inside of the post with Jarred Bowen getting his footing wrong playing the ball into Pickford’s hands.

With West Ham putting the pressure on the Everton goal, Moyes added Yarmolenko into the mix with the Ukraine winger replacing Benhrama, not quite having the same impact as he had against Burnley and yet still looking for his first goal for the Irons.

Ancelotti’s side remained resilient and held a compact strong shape, making it an impossible afternoon for the Hammers, with the Toffee’s also being a danger on the counter-attack. Late in the second half, there was a great link-up play between Richarlison and Coleman, with the Irishman’s shot being blocked by a Lingard whose last-second challenge seemed to keep them in the game.

With the game ending 1-0, the Toffee’s remain 8th put are now only 3 points behind the Irons with a game in hand with West Ham’s chance of avoiding dropping below them is their goal difference. The defeat for David Moyes boys also meant that it was the first time West Ham had lost consecutively at home for the first time since December 2019, when they lost all four of Manuel Pelligrini’s last home game for West Ham. And although they suffered a defeat it has proved how David Moyes changed the club since has been in charge of the club making the London Stadium home at last.

What does this mean for West Ham’s European Hopes?

With a defeat today it puts further pressure on West Ham, with Liverpool beating Southampton, and with a game, in hand, it seems like they may not even hold onto 5th place.  But with the Reds having to go back to Old Trafford, the fans should remain optimistic with United looking to have a strong end to the season. But with Manchester United’s bulked fixture list playing both Tuesday and Thursday, it could become a game that they may not perform against the Reds with Europe already guaranteed for Solskjaer’s team.

West Ham could also benefit massively with Chelsea’s game congestion and their importance on other fixtures with Tuchel’s team potentially looking to rest ahead of two Cup finals, where there’ll be meeting both Leicester in the FA Cup final and Manchester City in the Champions League final on the 29th May. But with Chelsea’s recent win against Manchester City, 2-1,  they will have the confidence to challenge upcoming games of Arsenal, Leicester, and Villa, with Tuchel praising the squad’s fitness after coming back from 1-0 down at the Etihad.

West Ham fans shouldn’t be too worried about their final three games being against three teams in the bottom 6, Brighton, Southampton, and West Brom, and they should be aiming for all 9 points. And remains Moyes firmly set on European football “I think because we’ve lost today defeat might be costly, but you never know in football.’ ‘If we qualify for Europe I think it would be an incredible achievement, no matter which competition it is’. And with a Rice return being possible ahead of the Brighton game it may be exactly what West Ham needs to push them over the edge for this final stretch of the season.

Can they do it? Will they do it?

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