What started out as too ridiculous an ambition to mention is becoming increasingly realistic for West Ham, who moved closer to Champions League qualification thanks to another inspiring performance from Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United loan holder scored for the sixth time in his eighth appearance for David Moyes’ team before creating another two goals as West Ham won a lighthearted match and jumped to fourth place in the table. In other words, the man who is proving to be one of the signings of the season is leading his team towards one of the feats of the season.
West Ham hasn’t finished in the top four since 1986, but their display at Molineux suggested they believe the feat is now within their grasp. Lingard got them going with a wonderful goal in the sixth minute and then helped Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen to make it 3-0. But they had to work hard to maintain that advantage against dangerous hosts, who responded through Leander Dendoncker and Fábio Silva.
West Brom’s conquest of Stamford Bridge on Saturday opened a surprising new window of opportunity and, two weeks after giving up a three-goal lead against Arsenal, West Ham was determined not to let this opportunity slip.
Moyes made three changes in the Arsenal game, with Mark Noble returning to midfield to replace the injured Declan Rice. Arthur Masuaku, who was back in shape, was put directly back into the starting lineup for his first appearance since December.
The wolves were able to welcome Daniel Podence after a two-month hiatus, but Willy Boly was absent after testing positive for Covid-19. They could have opened the scoring after two minutes, when Podence gave Willian José the opportunity to score his first goal since arriving at the club in January. The forward swerved from 14 yards.
Soon West Ham pushed the home team back. In the fourth minute, Michail Antonio slid over Dendoncker and unloaded a fierce long-range shot that Rui Patrício fired at the post. That was simply a warning shot. Two minutes later, West Ham took the lead in irresistible style.
Vladimir Coufal created the goal by winning the ball in his own box, playing a one-two with Fornals and feeding Lingard, still within West Ham territory. Lingard switched to a gear no one else seemed to possess and advanced 40 yards, dodging defenders before emphatically firing at Patrício.
Rayan Aït-Nouri fired wide as the Wolves sought an instant draw, but the visitors soon increased their lead. Lingard again played a decisive role, showing tenacity and deception to keep the ball alive and pass it to Masuaku, who helped Fornals to shoot calmly from 10 yards.
In an exciting competition, Podence made his way to the crossbar before Antonio missed a chance to make it 3-0, deflecting a header from seven yards. Antonio limped off in the 36th minute, but his replacement, Bowen, scored within minutes of arriving. Lingard was once again the instigator thanks to another run and exceptional pass, which Bowen rewarded with a sharp finish.
After Willian José and Rúben Neves turned down more opportunities for the Wolves, Dendoncker finally found the net for the hosts just before the break, heading hard for the net after a cross from Adama Traoré. Moyes knew he had to use halftime to help his players subdue the Wolves once and for all and avoid another loss of a three-goal lead.
Nuno Espírito Santo introduced Silva for Podence and changed to 4-4-2 for the second half. But West Ham emerged as the more dangerous side, and Bowen twice came close to increasing his lead. However, Silva put West Ham on edge when he made it 3-2, finishing smartly from a tight angle after a graceful serve from Pedro Neto.
The Wolves did their best to find a tie, but Dendoncker and Neto took their best chances, and both couldn’t keep the shots down to an attractive range.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism