Noble’s farewell marked by London Stadium barnstormer

West Ham United v Manchester City – Premier League – London Stadium – Report

West Ham United 2-2 Manchester City

West Ham United ensured European football returns next season while keeping Manchester City’s Premier League champagne on ice following an explosive contest at the London Stadium.

With Mr West Ham, Mark Noble, set to make his final home appearance for the club he has supported and served for much of his life an emotional atmosphere was guaranteed. Hammers boss, David Moyes agreed: “I’m sure Sunday will be hugely emotional for Mark Noble and his family,” the Scotsman explained.

“When you’re saying you’re retiring from football, it’s a big thing to do. When you’re a footballer, your career is never that long, but I think you appreciate it when you started at 15 or 16 as an apprentice, and you’re finishing at 35. 

“To do it at one club is a huge achievement – it’s not done by many people nowadays – so great credit to Mark for the way he’s conducted himself as a player throughout his career.”

Moyes continued: “He’s terrific off the pitch and, for me personally, he’s been excellent since I came back. I’m sure it will be emotional for him but in the end, he’ll think he had a really good career. 

“He’s been huge off the pitch as well. During the pandemic, he played a big part in everything that was going on between all the club captains. 

“When I came back, he helped me an awful lot because he gave me an idea of what was required and needed. He steered me in the right direction on one or two things, and he’s a really good sounding board. I think you need people who you can speak with. He’ll certainly be missed in the dressing room next year.”

West Ham United skipper, Mark Noble said an emotional farewell to the London Stadium crowd following the Hammers’ 2-2 draw with Manchester City (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Nevertheless, there was still a football match to be played. Noble insisted the game wasn’t to be made all about him what with West Ham looking to secure a European place ahead of next season, while visitors and league leaders, Manchester City arrived in the capital hoping to take a huge step towards their eighth top-flight title.

A cauldron of noise greeted the departing hero and almost an opening goal. Craig Dawson heading over from close range after an exquisite cross from Pablo Fornals. A warning shot fire. The home crowd was suitably enthused.

Predictably, City enjoyed plenty of the ball, probing patiently. Lukasz Fabianski clung on at the second attempt at the feet of Jack Grealish. Meanwhile, Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings, picking passes with alarming ease. 

Rodri was a whisker away from an opening goal. Dawson deflected the danger to safety. While Fernandinho’s fizzing strike was a fraction too high.

But if City thought they were going to have it all their own way, they were soon in for a shock. Jarrod Bowen raced onto Fornals through-pass, rounded Ederson and squeezed the East Londoners ahead. Stratford, and a large percentage of Merseyside, exploded with delight.

Rodi and Jesus both wet close as City – stunned and agitated – went close. But having rebuffed City’s advances, West Ham struck again in the final seconds of the opening period. Bowen with the sweetest of finishes after Michail Antonio had superbly played him in.

But City are in this title race for a reason. Three minutes after the restart, Jack Grealish’s volley took a deflection off Dawson, leaving Fabianski helpless. Game on!

City swarmed forward in an attempt to turn the contest around. Fabianski somehow diverted Bernardo Silva’s attempt with his feet, while De Bruyne’s dead-ball effort was too high. In the meantime, Bowen passed up an opportunity to extend West Ham’s advantage, hitting the side netting after Antonio had seized on Ederson’s hesitance.

Antonio should have done much better, chipping wide after latching onto a woefully short backpass from Fernandinho. And that proved costly. Coufal headed a Riyad Mahez free-kick past the stranded Fabianski and into his own net. City were level and in the ascendancy. 

The game was being played at a frenetic pace. Noble’s entrance received an enormous ovation, but there was little time or room for sentiment. VAR thought similarly. Dawson tripped Jesus. Anthony Taylor was invited to have another look. However, Fabianski brilliantly saved the resulting spot-kick from Mahez.

With Wolves surprisingly dropping points against Norwich City, West Ham, ensured at the very least a Europa Conference place for the 2022/23 season. While the City supporters trudged away, their season still on a knife-edge, the Hammers fans – to a man – remained to honour Noble. A footballer already long-since written into East End folklore.

West Ham United conclude their Premier League campaign on Sunday, May 22 when they face Brighton & Hove Albion at the AMEX Stadium (4pm).

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell, Rice (Capt), Souček, Bowen, Lanzini (Noble 75′), Fornals (Johnson 90+2′), Antonio (Yarmolenko 90+4′) Subs not used: Areola (GK), Fredericks, Král, Masuaku, Okoflex, Vlašić

Booked: Jarrod Bowen (foul), Coufal (foul), Lukasz Fabianski (dissent)

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 24′, 45′

Manchester City: Ederson, João Cancelo, Laporte, Fernandinho (Capt), Zinchenko, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Gabriel Jesus Subs not used: Steffen (GK), Aké, Egan-Riley, Mbete, Gündoğan, Lavia, Sterling, Foden, Palmer

Booked: Jesus (foul)

Goals: Jack Grealish 48′, Vladimir Coufal (own-goal) 68′

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Assistants: Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn

Fourth Official: Graham Scott

VAR: John Brooks

Assistant VAR: Simon Long

Attendance: 59,972

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]