• By Paul Lagan

West Ham make a mess of it, as Pope-inspired Burnley claim the points


West Ham 0 Burnley 1

West Ham missed a golden opportunity to put clear daylight between themselves and the bottom three as they succumbed tamely to European-chasing Burnley.

Jay Rodriguez’s expertly executed first-half header did the damage, as the Hammers struggled to replicate the stirring form they produced to beat Chelsea at the London Stadium last week.

Their lead over Aston Villa and Bournemouth remains at four points, but now they have played a game more. They seem determined to make life difficult for themselves until the bitter end.

There were a few signs at the outset that this might not be a straightforward assignment for David Moyes’ men, as Erik Pieters flashed a shot just over and Matej Vydra flicked a dangerous glancing header at Lukasz Fabianski.

The main source of optimism for the Hammers early on came in the shape of Tomas Soucek, who has had a highly eventful time of it since the restart.

The 25-year-old midfielder, on loan from Slavia Prague, scored an own goal in the defeat at Tottenham, but then scored in the dramatic win against Chelsea and in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle.

And very soon he was again looking a likely scorer, sending in a powerful header which flew just wide and then very nearly converted a Ryan Fredericks cross – but his close-range volley was well saved by Clarets stopper Nick Pope.

It turned out to be just one of many telling contributions by the excellent England keeper, who also did well to block a Michail Antonio drive with his legs as the Hammers shrugged off their early lack of possession to fashion a few decent chances.

But on 38 minutes, Rodriguez raced in front of Aaron Cresswell to connect beautifully with a cross from Charlie Taylor on the left. Fabianski was left grasping at thin air as the ball bounced over the line via the underside of the bar.

Antonio missed the chance to reply instantly when he was given a clear sight of goal, only to clip the ball wide of an onrushing Pope before Andriy Yarmolenko had the Burnley number one scrambling at his near post after cutting in from the right.

Sebastian Haller almost scored, seconds after coming on for Yarmolenko, just past the hour, but after the ball broke kindly to him following a long throw, the outstretched boot of Pope thwarted his close-range stab at goal.

The keeper’s fine form was a major reason for the Hammers finishing empty-handed, although the drive of Mark Noble was badly missed during a second half in which the hosts seemed to lose their way and the visitors – winners on their last visit to the capital at Palace a week ago – gained in assurance.

Sub Chris Wood almost made the game safe for Burnley when he stabbed home a cross – only to be flagged offside. He also tested Fabianski’s stretching capacity after turning the last defender at the end of a sharp breakaway. It mattered not. Burnley had done enough.

West Ham: Fabianski – Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell – Soucek, Rice – Bowen, Fornals (Ajeti 86), Yarmolenko (Haller 62) – Antonio. Subs not used: Balbuena, Lanzini, Noble, Wilshere, Masuaku, Randolph, Johnson

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