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  • By Yann Tear

Hammers conjure up a fitting finale for Mark Noble as title-bound Man City are held

West Ham (2) 2 Bowen 24, 45

Manchester City (0) 2 Grealish 49, Coufal og 69

The Hammers served up a rousing finale to the season – holding champions-elect Man City to a pulsating draw at a vibrant London Stadium.

The home support kicked up a storm for Mark Noble’s final home appearance in his beloved claret and blue and the Irons nearly brought the house down by taking a 2-0 lead into the half-time break.

They have discomforted many of the big sides here this season – having defeated Liverpool and Chelsea in thrillers, while also ending Man City’s League Cup stranglehold with a penalty shoot-out win.

But City are not on top of the pile for nothing and they showed the stuff of champions to draw level after virtually camping in the Hammers’ half for most of the second half.

Indeed, they almost snatched the win that would have effectively given them the title, but Lukasz Fabianski saved a spot-kick from Riyad Mahrez.

It was a match full of intrigue. Liverpool, watching from afar, and still with an outside chance of becoming champions, were hoping West Ham might do them a favour and David Moyes’ men very nearly obliged.

Craig Dawson sent an early header onto the roof of the net but the match soon settled into the predictable holding pattern of City monoploising the ball and the Hammers massing around their own penalty area.

Rodri’s shot ballooned over off Dawson’s foot and Fernandinho fizzed a decent strike just over as the visitors began to show menace.

But West Ham were not about to meekly succumb and on 24 minutes, their man of the season, Jarrod Bowen, raced onto a first-time ball from Pablo Fornals and rounded Ederson before clipping into the far corner, just as the angle was starting to tighten and Aymeric Laporte was racing back to the line.

City came back, with Gabriel Jesus sending a daisy-cutter inches past the far post and we expected the holding pattern to resume.

Bowen was having none of it. Neither was Michael Antonio – leading the line superbly and flicking Tomas Soucek’s header on to his nippy co-striker who raced to the edge of the box, composed himself and drilled a low shot past Ederson

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Fuelled, no doubt, by a few choice words from Pep Guardiola during the interval, City were soon back in it when Jack Grealish picked up the loose ends after the Irons failed to clear their lines and his shot driven into the turf looped over Fabianski, having taken a touch off Dawson.

Tails up, Bernardo Silva almost levelled but Fabianski somehow just kept it out.

Desperate to slow things down and give themselves a chance to get up the field, the Hammers took their time over a goal kick and Fabianski was booked by Anthony Taylor for time wasting.

Yet breakaway chances came. Bowen hit the side-netting after cutting in from the right and Antonio almost profited from a blind back pass from Fernandinho which left Ederson exposed. A rushed shot flew wide as the keeper came out.

But the relentless pressure told in the end - and when Mahrez floated a free-kick from wide on the left, the unlucky Vladimir Coufal headed past his own keeper in attempting to get to a ball that was arching past him.

Bowen had another great chance to restore the lead when he latched onto a nod down from Soucek, but his half-volley struck Laporte, when it seemed easier to score.

More drama was still to come, as Noble came on for his swansong appearance, but his afternoon nearly ended in disappointment when, with five minutes remaining, VAR sent Taylor to check his monitor after Dawson had fouled Jesus.

Mahrez stepped up for the kick that would all-but clinch top spot and there was Fabianski, leaping to his left to palm away.

Noble, feted before kick-off with a Danny Dyer eulogy over the PA and with a warm round of applause on 16 minutes from appreciative fans, deserved his post-match wave to the fans to not feel like an anti-climax.

He is a much-loved club legend, who even Guardiola sought out to hug at the end. His 25 years at the club ended with a host of former players expressing their admiration through a video relayed on the big screen.

Hammers: (4-2-3-1) Fabianski – Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell – Soucek, Rice – Bowen, Lanzini (Noble 77), Fornals (Johnson 90) – Antonio (Yarmolenko 90). Subs not used: Areola, Vlasic, Fredericks, Masuaku, Kral, Oko-Flex

City: (4-3-3) Ederson, Cancelo, Fernandinho, Laporte, Zinchenko – Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne – Mahrez, Jesus, Grealish. Subs not used: Steffen, Ake, Sterling, Gundogan, Foden, Egan-Riley, Mbete, Palmer, Lavia


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