The Champions League aspirations of West Ham suffered a major blow after succumbing to a damaging defeat against Everton in East London.
Knowing any slip could realistically signal the end of their top four hopes, both West Ham and Everton sought a fast start at the London stadium. Crosses into the box have been a fruitful avenue for the Hammers in recent matches, though with Carlo Ancelotti’s side deploying a back three, that same level of success would be difficult to achieve here.
The Toffees racked up four corners within the first 15 minutes, though each came to nothing after Tomas Soucek proved his worth from set pieces in both boxes.
Michail Antonio made a spectacular return to his side last week with a quick brace, and almost had an early telling contribution here in the 20th minute.
After drifting out wide to pick up possession, the makeshift centre-forward drilled a low pass into the box that narrowly evaded the onrushing Jesse Lingard.
That near-miss would prove pivotal moments later when Dominic Calvert-Lewin opened the scoring.
The frontman exhibited great movement to latch on to Ben Godfrey’s incisive through ball. From there, he made no mistake after haring down on goal, slotting the ball inside Lukasz Fabianski’s far post to make it 1-0.
Everton take the lead at the London Stadium
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 9, 2021
One almost became two at the hands of Gylfi Sigurdsson, but Fabianski was equal to the Icelandic’s long-range free-kick, producing a fine acrobatic stop at the expense of a corner.
Both sides had grown into the game after a sluggish start, with Richarlison and Said Benrahma each going close. The Algerian in particular should have scored after wasting a free header at the far post.
Manuel Lanzini’s afternoon ended early as the break approached, succumbing to an injury and being replaced by Jarrod Bowen as Pablo Fornals dropped deeper.
A neat passing move crafted a shooting opportunity for the marauding Vladimir Coufal after the interval. The right-back’s strike cannoned back off the post straight to Bowen, but the forward couldn’t adjust his feet quick enough, squandering a glorious opportunity from three yards out after stumbling over Jordan Pickford.
📊 Most times hitting the woodwork in PL this season:
21 WEST HAM
20 Tottenham, Aston Villa
18 Leeds, Man City pic.twitter.com/2Rkcb590Xn
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) May 9, 2021
The match became increasingly frantic with 20 minutes remaining as the hosts’ frustration began to rise.
Soucek received a yellow card after felling Richarlison to prevent a fast-break. Such counters were become more frequent as the Hammers threw bodies forward in greater numbers.
Seamus Coleman was almost the beneficiary of one such counter, but attempted to control the ball when shooting first time was the optimal play after Calvert-Lewin’s superb pick out.
The striker again turned provider as the match entered its final stages, this time lofting a cross to Josh King only seconds after replacing Richarlison.
The ex-Bournemouth forward rose highest, but powered his header against the post to ensure the contest remained in the balance in the final five minutes.
His miss mattered not, as despite their best efforts, West Ham couldn’t break down Everton’s stubborn resistance on route to a damaging 1-0 defeat.