Monday 10 December 2018

'A real class act' - Praise flows for 18-year-old Declan Rice after man-of-the-match display against Tottenham

Declan Rice of West Ham United and Pablo Zabaleta celebrate
Declan Rice of West Ham United and Pablo Zabaleta celebrate

Declan Rice continues to defy his age after the 18-year-old Ireland Under-21 international produced a man-of-the-match performance for West Ham in last night's 1-1 draw against Tottenham at Wembley.

There have been widespread calls for Martin O'Neill to get the accomplished centre half - he can also play as a holding midfielder - involved in the Ireland set-up on a consistent basis.

O'Neill did include English-born Rice in a training squad last year and until he gets a senior Ireland cap in a competitive game, England still have an opportunity to lure him to the land of his birth.

Former Hammer Joey Barton led the praise for Rice, saying he "was a very good player" following last's 1-1 draw.

"I think he's got the perfect manager in David Moyes, he's going to learn how to defend," added Barton.

"They've (West Ham) not seen a young player come through in a long time, and stay there.

"This kid here, looking at him, he could get in and stay in; and that's what the punters thrive off. They want to see one of their own in there."

Social media lit up with praise for Rice.

Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, insists he is not concerned about Tottenham losing more ground on the top four.

Spurs could have moved onto the shoulder of fourth-placed Liverpool and put some daylight between themselves and Arsenal in sixth with a win over lowly West Ham on Thursday night.

Instead they had to settle for a point, and were grateful for that, after Son Heung-Min's 30-yard stunner cancelled out Pedro Obiang's bolt from the claret and blue.

However, Spurs boss Pochettino said: "I am not thinking about it, I am not worried.

"We are in the middle of the season. I think we are close. We missed the opportunity here but I think we are close.

"I'm very pleased with all of the players, only sometimes you need some luck to open the game, like it was when we played Southampton.

"I think it was a similar game to that one. One was 5-2, and this was 1-1."

Obiang stunned Tottenham with West Ham's first shot of the match after 70 minutes.

The Spanish midfielder let fly from 30 yards - which was about as close as West Ham got to the Spurs goal - with a rocket which flew past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and into the top corner.

But Spurs hit back in equally spectacular style with another long-range cracker from Son, who finally got the better of Hammers keeper Adrian with six minutes left.

Hammers boss David Moyes admitted he was as surprised as anyone to see Obiang rifle home only his third goal for the club.

"It was a brilliant strike," he said. "I hadn't seen him do it in training, though."

West Ham, who were in the relegation zone on Tuesday morning, could have climbed to 11th had they held on.

But Moyes added: "Confidence is growing with our results. We have started to look stronger, but then we have lost a few goals.

"In the main, we have only lost one game in seven. They are disappointed they didn't win it."

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