The Media Review: West Ham United

How the newspapers reported Sunday's 3-1 victory.

By Nick Szczepanik • 23 May 2022

So Albion’s best-ever season ends with the club’s first top-ten finish, but typically it was always, in that over-used phrase, a bit of a roller-coaster. Four wins in the first five games, last-gasp goals and a sprint in the final straight – but also runs of 11 games without a win and six successive defeats.

Let me assure you that it was not only the fans, players and coaches at the Albion who have suffered at times. Compilers of media round-ups also do not enjoy pulling together collections of descriptions of missed chances, unlucky deflections and great saves by opposing goalkeepers resulting in another defeat.

But at the end of a campaign of ups and downs, here we are reflecting on the club’s best-ever league placing, and this column has recently been a pure pleasure to assemble.  And what better way to finish than by surveying the reactions to a fine come-from-behind win?

Some of our favourite writers were on hand to witness history made, such as John Aizlewood, who noted in the Daily Telegraph that “Goals from Joel Veltman, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck condemned West Ham to the Europa Conference rather than the Europa League. And, after 10 attempts, West Ham have still to take three Premier League points from Brighton.

“Inevitably, the Amex had a giddy end-of-term atmosphere and even without calf-injury victim Leandro Trossard, Brighton played with the freedom of a team concluding their best-ever season. They had already reached their highest Premier League points total and they have now finished in their highest ever position. If Brighton were hot, West Ham froze.


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Veltman on West Ham strike!

“The home side swept forward in waves – Moises Caicedo bringing a fine save from Lukasz Fabianski - until West Ham eased themselves back into territorial contention. News of Wilfried Zaha’s goal at Selhurst Park was received with delight by the travelling hordes, although not as much delight as Antonio’s opener when he gathered Vladimir Coufal’s throw-in, spun around the over-eager Lewis Dunk as the ball bounced before firing past Robert Sanchez from the edge of the area.

“Neal Maupay arrived to add attacking ballast in place of the distracted Yves Bissouma. Five minutes after the restart they were level when Coufal inadvertently headed Gross’s cross into the path of Solly March, who brilliantly laid off for Veltman. The Dutch defender’s perfunctory shot was at Fabianski, but it somehow squeezed through the goalkeeper's legs, to the relief of his manager at Ajax, Erik ten Hag.

“West Ham were rattled, and they would not mount a coherent second-half attack. Indeed, Brighton looked stronger and when Maupay, Enock Mwepu and finally Welbeck combined extravagantly to free Gross, the German about to sign a new Brighton contract smashed the ball past Fabianski.

“Although there were far-from-fond farewell appearances for Mark Noble and Andriy Yarmolenko, there was worse to come for West Ham in added time when Welbeck, the game’s most lambent performer, nodded Gross’s corner past Fabianski.”

Another Amex regular, Kieran Gill of the Daily Mail, wrote that “this match also marked the farewell for Mark Noble and there was a presentation before a ball was kicked with the retiring West Ham captain gifted a gong and bottle of champagne by Brighton. A nice touch from a nice club.


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Gross on West Ham finale

But he added that “you’d be mistaken thinking that Brighton had nothing to play for. They turned up knowing they could finish as high as eighth or low as 14th, depending on what happened here and elsewhere.

“The difference in prize money between those two positions is an estimated £16million – and that isn’t chump change to a club like Brighton. That would be enough to sign another Marc Cucurella, the 23-year-old left wing-back who is wanted by Manchester City this summer.

“It was in the 37th minute that news broke that Manchester United were losing at Crystal Palace as the visiting supporters pumped up the volume. In the 39th, West Ham took the lead. 

“Vladimir Coufal’s throw-in found Michail Antonio, who muscled off the opposition. As the ball settled, he swung a left foot at it, sumptuously finding the top corner. All 55 of his previous Premier League goals had come from inside of the box. Not a bad time to bag his first from outside. The away support was now singing about ‘going on a European tour’. In the Europa League – if the results stayed as is.


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Potter incredibly proud of record finish

“But a lot can happen in a half of football, as West Ham would learn. It became 1-1 in the 50th minute when Joel Veltman squirmed his shot under Lukasz Fabianski. Then 2-1 when Pascal Gross, who is set to sign a new Brighton deal, struck a sweet shot beyond the West Ham goalkeeper. Danny Welbeck completed the scoreline by heading home a corner in the 90th minute, summing up a sorry second half for West Ham.”

A less frequent visitor to the Amex press box, but a regular in the stadium’s home areas, is versatile snooker specialist and Albion fan Hector Nunns.  In the Mirror, he developed the theme of Albion spoiling Mark Noble’s last bow as West Ham captain:

“Mark Noble saw his dream curtain call spoiled by Brighton - as the Seagulls clinched a highest ever top-flight finish with a second-half blitz,” he wrote. “The 35-year-old Noble began the day on 549 appearances for the hometown club that he joined as an 11-year-old academy prospect. 

“While he was waiting to come on after 81 minutes Graham Potter’s side scored their second through Pascal Gross – Joel Veltman having earlier levelled following Michail Antonio’s opener. 

“And then in his few minutes on the pitch the Hammers stalwart saw Danny Welbeck seal the points and a finishing position of ninth for a club that almost fell out of the EFL 25 years ago. 

“For Noble there was a pre-match presentation by the Seagulls of champagne and an engraved silver salver. Brighton owner and chairman Tony Bloom, together with Bobby Zamora and George Parris – a pair that played for both clubs – warmly congratulated the Hammers stalwart. Every Brighton player hugged Noble including their own ‘one-club’ captain Dunk – before the emotional midfielder went to take the applause of the 3,000 away fans.


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PL Highlights: Albion 3 West Ham 1

Jordan Davies of The Sun was more impressed by Albion’s efforts than those of the visitors, but hinted that it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Hammers.  He wrote: “An impressive home win meanwhile handed Graham Potter’s men their highest ever Prem finish of ninth, just five points off West Ham.

“In need of a victory to end their season on a high, history was against West Ham who had failed to win any of their nine Prem meetings with Brighton before this one. Six of those were draws, and the early stages of their 10th top-flight clash had all the makings of another in the seaside sunshine.

“The Hammers may have still been playing for something, but their relaxed start said otherwise with just 31 per cent possession in the opening 15 minutes.

“The atmosphere was in need of some spicing up too, and that came from the away end as news filtered through in the 37th minute of Palace taking the lead at Selhurst Park.

“And three minutes later, they were cheering for their own team as Antonio shrugged off Lewis Dunk just outside the box from a Vladimir Coufal throw-in. The 32-year-old smacked it with his laces into Robert Sanchez’ top corner for West Ham’s first shot on target.

“An undeserving lead perhaps, and Brighton came out in the second half a completely different animal thanks to a half time switch of Neal Maupay for Yves Bissouma. The French striker caused the West Ham backline mayhem instantly and Potter was rewarded with a 50th minute equaliser.

“Solly March controlled the ball brilliantly in the box only to set up Veltman, whose shot squirmed under the body of Fabianski. One to forget for the Polish keeper, and one that inspired Brighton to go for the kill.

“Moyes was preparing to react by making a trio of changes with 10 minutes left, including Noble, but Gross scuppered his plans by finding the net. Fed by Welbeck with his back to goal, Gross turned Tomas Soucek with ease and this time left Fabianski with no chance from 18 yards. Noble, Andriy Yarmolenko and Ben Johnson trotted on regardless, only to see Welbeck head home an injury-time third in stoppage time.”

Robert O’Connor wrote in The Times that “Brighton signed off from a historic season in the dizzy heights of ninth. In truth both teams should end the campaign bursting with pride, but it won’t feel that way for West Ham.

“Brighton made the more assured start, looking every inch a side out to secure their highest-ever league finish. Moises Caicedo, fresh from scoring his first Premier League goal in the thrashing of United, had the first opening when a loose ball fell his way on the edge of the box, but his low drive was saved well by Fabianski.

“West Ham’s form has been patchy with only eight wins in 22 league games. A sixth-place finish could have rendered that an irrelevance, and Antonio swung the Europa League pendulum in their favour five minutes before half-time. As Brighton’s captain tumbled Antonio took a touch and drilled an unstoppable blast into Robert Sánchez’s top corner.

“Brighton were concerned about their own history-making finish, and the substitute Neal Maupay looked to bring them level in the first minute of the second half. He danced through West Ham’s penalty box and swung his left foot at a shot that was well held by Fabianski. A goal wasn’t long in coming. Marc Cucurella fed Gross inside the area and his cross was lofted on to the foot of Solly March, who quickly laid it off for Veltman to crash his shot through Fabianski.

“Brighton were suddenly swamping the visitors and would have made it two had Cucurella’s rolled cross not been fractionally ahead of both Maupay and Welbeck. Minutes later, Welbeck had a golden chance when he was played through by a clever pass tucked in behind by Gross, but his effort arched across goal before drifting wide of the post.

“West Ham had been warned, and then warned again. Still they had not learned to take Brighton’s attacking threat seriously. The European dream looked finally to have been crushed ten minutes from the end. Welbeck took the ball to feet and darted across the edge of the box, playing a neat one-two with Enock Mwepu before picking out Gross, who found the top corner with a fine 18-yard drive.

“Welbeck should have made it three when he headed straight into Fabianski’s gloves from Tariq Lamptey’s neat cross, as Brighton seemed to be cantering to a first top-half-finish in the top flight. Welbeck gave Brighton the ending their season has deserved when he headed in from a corner in stoppage time. The Amex let out a grateful roar for their team’s efforts this campaign.”

And so does this column. Enjoy the summer.