West Ham leave Upton Park in style with comeback win against Manchester United
Published 10/05/2016 | 19:36
West Ham bid an unforgettable farewell to the Boleyn Ground as 112 years at Upton Park ended with a remarkable comeback win against Manchester United.
Unseemly pre-match behaviour and a 45-minute delay due to the visitors' late arrival was hardly the ideal start, but that was soon forgotten as a wonderful 2,398th and final match before the Hammers' summer move to the Olympic Stadium.
Louis van Gaal's men looked set to be the party-poopers after Anthony Martial's second-half brace cancelled out Diafra Sakho's early effort, only for Michail Antonio and Winston Reid to secure West Ham a 3-2 win on a breathless and emotional evening in east London.
This was quite the farewell party and one which kick-starts West Ham's hopes of European qualification, while the turnaround saw United blow the chance of usurping rivals Manchester City in the final Champions League berth ahead of the Barclays Premier League finale on Sunday.
It was a night nobody at Upton Park will ever forget and certainly went a long way to making up for the pre-match incidents outside the ground, where the late-arriving United bus was hit by glass bottles and other missiles.
One police officer and a member of the public received minor injuries in the trouble that made way for a far more positive atmosphere inside Upton Park, where Van Gaal's men struggled with the early intensity as Sakho opened the scoring with a deflected effort.
The visitors eventually found their composure and looked set to make Slaven Bilic's men pay for failing to make their dominance count, with Martial grabbing two second-half goals to the audible frustration of the home support.
Disappointment would soon turn to delirium as Upton Park received an incredible send-off.
Dimitri Payet - the Hammers' outstanding player this season - was the architect, first sending in the cross that Antonio powered home before sending in a free-kick that Reid directed in the final goal to secure victory.
The final match at Upton Park certainly lived up to the billing and the home side needed just 10 minutes to go ahead when play eventually got under way at 8.30pm.
Manuel Lanzini's smart cross from the left found Sakho, whose curling strike clipped Daley Blind and beat David de Gea in front of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.
Upton Park was rocking and the hosts looked set to add another, with Mark Noble's audacious volley blocked and star turn Payet firing a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Attempts from that distance were always going to be a big ask but Andy Carroll wasted a glorious chance to net in the 19th minute, being denied by De Gea having been inexplicably played onside by Blind.
United were struggling to cope with Bilic's men and looked to have fallen further behind when Antonio rose to bundle home at the far post, but the goal was ruled out after the ball went out of play in the build-up.
Antonio saw a strike deflected just wide as the half came to a close, with former West Ham midfielder Michael Carrick brought on for Morgan Schneiderlin at the break as the visitors looked to continue the improvements they had shown towards the end of the opening period.
The home side were now struggling to break down Van Gaal's men and the fans in the Bobby Moore Stand tried to wind up De Gea by refusing to give the ball back.
When he finally took his goal-kick, though, Marcus Rashford gathered the ball and played through Juan Mata, whose cutback was directed home by Martial.
A water bottle appeared to be thrown De Gea's way as he celebrated in front of the home fans, with Payet curling into the side-netting and Sakho missing from close range as the hosts attempted to quickly wrestle back the advantage.
Martial cleared a Carroll header off the line but it was Darren Randolph's goal rather than the Red Devils' that the ball would head into in the 72nd minute.
Play was broken up in the middle and Rashford played the ball out to Martial, whose burst took him past Reid and the striker's cross-shot beat the West Ham goalkeeper at the near post.
The frustration was palpable inside Upton Park, but four minutes later the mood swung wildly.
Payet's free-kick may have been blocked but he collected the loose ball and crossed for Antonio to power a header past De Gea.
Things would get better still in the 80th minute as Payet swung in a free-kick that Reid got to with just enough power to beat De Gea, sending the home faithful wild.
It proved the final goal in Upton Park's 112-year history as the ground received a send-off to remember.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Gutting for @ManUtd , so dissappointing (sic). but what a way to sign off for the hammers, sensational from the fans inside that great stadium." - Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5)
Darren Randolph: 5/10
Michail Antonio: 7
Winston Reid: 7
Angelo Ogbonna: 6
Aaron Cresswell: 6
Mark Noble: 7
Cheikhou Kouyate: 7
Dimitri Payet: 7
Manuel Lanzini: 6
Diafra Sakho: 7
Andy Carroll: 7
Pedro Obiang (for Lanzini, 84 mins): 6
James Tomkins (for Sakho, 85 mins): 6
Enner Valencia (for Payet, 90 mins): 5
David De Gea: 6
Antonio Valencia: 6
Chris Smalling: 6
Daley Blind: 4
Marcos Rojo: 5
Morgan Schneiderlin: 6
Ander Herrera: 6
Juan Mata: 7
Wayne Rooney: 6
Anthony Martial: 8
Marcus Rashford: 7
Michael Carrick (for Schneiderlin, 46 mins): 6
Jesse Lingard (for Herrera, 83 mins): 6
Adnan Januzaj (for Valencia, 87 mins): 5
Anthony Martial: The France international threatened to ruin West Ham's evening with a brace in the second half. He has proved to be a rare positive in a league season which looks like ending in disappointment for Van Gaal's men, who missed the chance to go fourth ahead of Manchester City.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Winston Reid: Having been turned by Martial for United's second, the New Zealand defender headed home the decider and the final goal to be scored at Upton Park. The roof was almost raised high into the east London sky as Reid beat Blind to a cross and got the better of De Gea.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Slaven Bilic saw his side hammered 4-1 at home by Swansea on Saturday but got the right response here and will be delighted to have ended life at Upton Park with a victory. Van Gaal made four changes but his side were second best for large stages and did not deserve a win which would have all but secured them Champions League football.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The pre-match trouble outside the ground will forever mar what should have been an all-positive affair for the Hammers, with a superb match to end the send-off. Co-chairman David Sullivan will also regret his television and radio interviews, where he laid the blame for the delayed kick-off squarely at the feet of Manchester United.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Stoke v West Ham, Barclays Premier League (Sunday, May 15)
Manchester United v Bournemouth, Barclays Premier League (Sunday, May 15)
The Football Association issued a statement soon after the match in response to the disturbances and confirmed an investigation would be launched.
A post on the official FA Twitter feed read: " The FA strongly condemns the unsavoury incidents this evening involving both the Manchester United team coach outside West Ham United's Boleyn Ground and objects thrown from a section of the home support during the game.
"We will work closely with both clubs and the Metropolitan Police to fully investigate these matters."
Manager Bilic was delighted to leave Upton Park on a high and told Sky Sports 1: "We didn't stop believing because we were unlucky to be 1-1 all the time.
"Okay, they are Manchester United and they have scored a couple of great goals....we knew that they were highly motivated because it meant a lot to them as they could have overtaken Manchester City but we should have been more than 1-0 up at half-time.
"In the first half we had many chances, they had a little bit off possession and sometimes too long, but that is the reason why we didn't stop believing and we knew that we - especially when the crosses were coming in - that we are there if the delivery is good so it came and we scored and totally deserved it."
Midfielder Noble believes the team spirit throughout the season has lifted the Hammers.
He said: "I think it was written in the stars tonight. Three fantastic goals and just pure determination and will not to lose.
"We fought hard. They're a great team Manchester United, they made the pitch so big and they make you run a lot but I'm just so proud of the players tonight, they were phenomenal.
"With this team this season, I don't ever feel like we're going to lose - apart from Saturday when we were 4-1 down with two minutes to play. But we've just got that spirit that we never look out of a game.
"Going 2-1 down to Manchester United is always tough and in years gone by we would have lost that game but tonight I think it was written in the stars for this fantastic place."