It was a perfect end to an incredible night where fans sang their hearts out throughout the match, standing room only reminiscent of cup nights under the lights at Upton Park as they played the role of 12th player with passion urging the team to victory. In fact, such was the passion and desire to witness an historical night, the stadium remained packed until the final whistle of extra time.
Players and the club showed their support for their Ukrainian team mate Andriy Yarmolenko, whose family and community have been so deeply affected by the ongoing devastating military attacks and Russian invasion of their homeland. The team wore blue tops during the pre match warm up and club captain, Declan Rice, held up a West Ham shirt with Yarmolenko’s name and number on it as players lined up before the start of the match.
The Hammers have become adept at scoring from set pieces, so it was when Emil Krafth fouled Michail Antonio, Cresswell was set up in a dangerous position to deliver an excellent free kick for Dawson to dive a head of the Newcastle defence putting the home side in front. The atmosphere lit up and the crowd were in good form. Having rescued a draw for the Hammers last week, could Dawson’s goal push West Ham take control of the game?
But could the Hammers at least rescue a draw? With growing purpose the Hammers began to push further forward with Vlasic and Fornals making way for Masuaku and Yarmolenko to see out the final 20mins of what was becoming a more frantic encounter. So, it was a final chance falling to in form Bowen who could only chest over a cross that should have been headed firmly into the Leeds net to salvage something from a match that had 2 goals ruled out for offside, one for each team, that raised Leeds to 15th place, whilst the Hammers hang precariously in 4th anxiously watching results of those teams around us.
The party atmosphere was in full swing before the game, despite some fans struggling to get to the match during the Boxing Day with the impact of COVID and travel chaos that left some stranded and missing a game filled with the range of emotions you would find in a Christmas holiday movie – although the ending was not filled with the usual Hollywood feeling good theme of joy to all and the spirit of giving was definitely absent in the result.
Wins don’t come better that this and the end of match celebrations reverberated in and around Westfield until the small hours with fans singing ‘West Ham are massive wherever we go’ punctuated with cries of ‘Irons!’ ‘Irons’ and ‘Stick your blue flag …..’ Well, you know how that one goes eh?
On a night we needed a win, VAR denied us a second goal as the ball rolled over the line off Shane Duffy. Celebrations echoed around the ground only for the decision to go against us as Antonio was judged to have been offside before the ball had hit the defender on its way towards goal.
With chants of David Moyes Claret and Blue Army and West Ham Are Massive, Wherever We Go heard long after the match had ended and echoing around Westfield, we can finally put to bed the idea that we cannot compete with the top teams.
I have some of my recent photos of West Ham United home games at the London Stadium featured in November edition of Blowing Bubbles fanzine. If you would like a copy of the magazine go to: https://blowing-bubbles.co.uk/subscribe/
Do we need to get used to winning? For many years it seems we craved the idea of winning regularly and assumed we would, those bubbles flying so high only to fade and die on us time and again.