WEST HAM UNITED 1-0 WOLVES: Birthday boy Tomas Soucek scored the only goal of the game as David Moyes’ side claimed victory at the London Stadium on Sunday
At what stage do we start to think a top four place for West Ham is written in the stars?
David Moyes and his men have no right to even still be in contention for the Champions League.
Manchester United have a deeper squad, Spurs have Harry Kane and Son Heung Min, Arsenal have some of the most talented youngsters in the country and Wolves have the second best defensive record in the Premier League.
And yet, Tomas Soucek’s second-half winner, poked in from close range, lifted east London’s finest back into the hunt for a shock place in next season’s elite European competition.
A superb 27th birthday present for the Czech Republic international.
West Ham now sit fifth, two points behind inconsistent United. Arsenal and Spurs may have games in hand but you’d rather have points on the board, wouldn’t you?
In any case, how on earth are they still doing this?
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The patience of the Hammers faithful had been stretched since January with Moyes preferring to wait until the summer for quality rather than buy mediocrity for the sake of it.
The three points here, however, had supporters believing again by the final whistle. David Moyes clinched both his fists and raised them above his head in triumph.
This contest was make or break in terms of his side’s chances.
They enjoyed just 39percent possession but made the most of it. Aaron Cresswell curled a free-kick narrowly wide in the first half. Man of the Match Michail Antonio followed up by forcing a fine save from Jose Sa.
Declan Rice curled an effort on to the post from distance so good it should have been preceded by a drum roll.
The England midfielder produced a similar effort early in the second half. Don’t kid yourself that West Ham parked the bus.
They won here because they restricted Wolves, for all their 69 percent possession, to just one shot on target. It must also be pointed out that much-maligned defender Kurt Zouma was outstanding with a series of crucial blocks.
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Until recently, Bruno Lage’s side boasted the second best defensive record in the Premier League behind Manchester City.
As soon as he admitted to setting his sights on the top four, however, his men lost their way, losing twice to Arsenal and now this.
Hwang Hee-Chan curled their best chance of the first half narrowly wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao sent another effort over the bar from just inside the Hammers box, early in the second half.
And that was that in terms of the Wolves threat. Should they prioritise a striker in the summer they will again be serious players next season.
West Ham, though, are still standing – with the thinnest squad in the top half of the table.
If it is this nerve-shredding for the rest of the season, the Hammers fans will have no fingernails left.
Moyes is attempting something of a high-wire act, well aware that if he suffers an injury to key men Rice, Bowen, Antonio or Fabianski it is surely all over. That’s before the knockout stages of the Europa League and the latter stages of the FA Cup kick in.
Set against that is the towering belief bordering on defiance at the London Stadium. This race is going down to the wire.