Seagulls comeback thwarts Hammers

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 West Ham United

West Ham United’s hopes of a Europa League place evaporated as Brighton & Hove Albion staged an impressive second-half recovery at the AMEX Stadium.

The Hammers headed to the south coast without a victory over the Seagulls in nine attempts. Nevertheless, a win for the East Londoners, coupled with a defeat for Manchester United at Crystal Palace, would see them upgrade from a Europa Conference place ahead of the new season.

Boss, David Moyes insisted it had been a decent season, regardless of the outcome: “We go into the game having already got something. We’ve already got European football next season,” the Scotsman enthused.

“It’s a huge, huge plus for us, and a great achievement, but also the thought that we could finish sixth again, after the year we’ve already had in the cup competition.

“You think about the improvements other teams have tried to make. We’ve tried to as well, but that’s the level of the Premier League: everybody’s really competitive.

“Whatever we’ve done this year, we’ve been able to roughly maintain what we’ve had in the last year, which is a good sign, and I hope we can either maintain or build and get better for next season as well.”

Lukasz Fabianski produced the first notable save of the afternoon, dropping upon Moises Caicedo’s low drive from twelve yards as Brighton – who have recently beaten Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United – began confidently.

West Ham’s approach was a little more cautious. Aaron Cresswell’s volley was rebuffed by a packed backline, while patient, possession football, though easy on the eye, provided few opportunities during the opening stages.

Indeed, neither side was providing too much to get over-excited about. An attempt from Pascal Groß drifted harmlessly wide. Exchanges, scrappy and without purpose, the game replicating something of a dead rubber.

But with news filtering through of a Crystal Palace goal at Selhurst, West Ham took steps of their own to secure a six-place finish. Michail Antonio won his tussle with Lewis Dunk, found a yard of space and promptly leathered an unstoppable, angled effort high beyond Robert Sánchez and into the top corner of the Seagulls’ net.

But it wasn’t to be. Keen to finish the season with a flourish, Seagulls’ boss, Graham Potter, replaced Yves Bissouma with Neal Maupay. And with fresh impetus, the home side wasted little time in levelling the score. Joel Veltman’s shot squeezed through Fabianski. The Polish stopper undoubtedly should have done better.

Danny Welbeck was a whisker away from turning the game on its head. The former Manchester United and Arsenal man could only look on in disbelief as his right-footed strike from an acute angle flew agonisingly wide with Fabianski beaten all ends up.

But the tide appeared to have turned. Adam Webster headed over after arriving unchallenged. Then with just over ten minutes remaining, the home side forged ahead. Groß turned on the proverbial sixpence before rifling high into the net. The goal had been coming. West Ham’s Europa League hopes were now up in smoke.

Welbeck passed up a glorious opportunity to kill the contest. Heading directly into Fabianski’s gloves after a flowing move down the right.

Mark Noble’s arrival for his 550th and final West Ham appearance was warmly received by both sets of supporters. But as far as the visitors were concerned, the game was gone. This time, Welbeck made no mistake, firmly heading home in stoppage-time to seal the East Londoners’ fate.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Sánchez, Veltman, Dunk (Capt), Webster, Cucurella, Bissouma (Maupay 46′), Caicedo (Mwepu 79′), March (Lamptey 75′), Groß, Mac Allister, Welbeck Subs not used: Steele (GK), Lallana, Alzate, Duffy, Offiah, Ferguson

Booked: Neal Malpay (foul)

Goals: Joel Veltman 48′, Pascal Groß 80′, Danny Welbeck 90+2′

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal (Johnson 81′), Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell, Rice (Capt), Souček, Fornals (Noble 81′), Lanzini (Yarmolenko 81′), Bowen, Antonio Subs not used: Areola (GK), Randolph (GK), Fredericks, Král, Masuaku, Okoflex

Booked: Tomas Soucek (foul)

Goals: Michail Antonio 40′

Referee: Kevin Friend

Assistants: Matthew Wilkes and Steve Meredith

Fourth Official: Andy Davies

VAR: Simon Hooper

Assistant VAR: Simon Beck

Attendance: 31,604

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]