An excellent Bowen penalty after Cornet was fouled, no VAR to chalk that one off, and a wonderful goal from Emerson to put us in control. The crowd sensed there were more goals in this game and it came from the excellent Antonio on 90th minute to send the crowd roaring and singing. Antonio entertains as much as he frustrates but his impact along with Bowen and later Parqueta was the difference.
The mould was broken after they made Noble as you will not get a player who will be as dedicated to a team as Mark has been to West Ham, a boyhood fan who grew up in Canning Town supporting the Hammers and living many youngster’s dream of playing for the club you watched as a child from the stands. It has been wonderful seeing so many young fans as well at the stadium and who knows which one those may grow up to play for the club and who have had Noble as their inspiration.
The pre-match rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ and noise from the crowd could not lift the home side despite the fans continuing to sing their support throughout the match. The London Stadium has found its voice in this competition and it sends the hairs on the back of your neck tingling as the crowd stood throughout the match to cheer, chant and sing West Ham on, urging the team to find a goal.
It was a battling, although not the best, performance that keeps West Ham in with a chance after Cresswell was controversially sent off at the end of a first half that saw the Hammers gradually taking control against a rather niggly Lyon side happy to play for every foul and tactic to disrupt the flow of the game.
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?