Premier League: West Ham United 0 Burnley 1
PUBLISHED: 20:25 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 20:25 08 July 2020
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The Hammers were left looking warily over their shoulders at the dreaded drop-zone following this disappointing defeat at London Stadium, where Jay Rodriguez’s 38th-minute header secured victory for the Clarets.
With visiting ‘keeper Nick Pope making a trio of crucial saves, West Ham may well have been comfortably ahead on the shots, corners and possession ratios but on an evening when David Moyes’ side neither took their chances nor found any decisive cutting edge, the vital statistic that counted was the Burnley striker’s decider.
And after building up a head of steam with four precious points in the preceding seven days thanks to their wonderful win over Chelsea and determined draw at Newcastle United, they now head into their final four matches, just four points clear of safety after going back into reverse.
The Scot made just one change from the side he named at St James’s Park on Sunday as Andriy Yarmolenko replaced substitute Manuel Lanzini, who found himself on the bench alongside fit-again Sébastien Haller.
With a goal apiece in both of those matches, the confident Tomáš Souček certainly wasted no time trying his luck from range but his wayward 25-yarder unfortunately caused more problems for the off-pitch ball-gatherer than Burnley ‘keeper Pope.
After Angelo Ogbonna also curled a rare shot wide from 20 yards, Souček’s compatriot Matêj Vydra then forced the first save of the evening out of Lukasz Fabiański, when he met Dwight McNeil’s free-kick wide with a downward header.
Already it was becoming the battle of the Czechs as Souček then nodded wide of the left post and, with white-shirted Burnley playing a patient, passing, possession game, the back-tracking Ryan Fredericks also had to be at his quickest to match Vydra stride-for-stride after Charlie Taylor tried to release the Clarets’ striker.
Then, after having a shot charged down, Souček forced Pope into a brilliant reaction save, when he got between Phil Bardsley and Kevin Long to meet Fredericks’ inviting low, right-wing cross from eight yards out.
As the half-hour mark approached, the twice-capped England ‘keeper thwarted Michail Antonio’s low, angled effort with his legs, too.
West Ham were now matching the visitors pass-for-pass and with the tigerish Jarrod Bowen and Antonio seeking to get into penalty area at every opportunity, the Hammers were looking equally threatening with their build-up play without finding that killer ball.
Indeed, on 35 minutes, neither Yarmolenko nor Bowen could convert after the bulldozing Antonio charged down the left-flank and into the area and another great chance to break the deadlock was sadly lost for the home side.
Kicking off in 10th spot – six places and 15 points above the Hammers – Burnley had lost just one of their last 11 Premier League matches and, following their weekend draw with Sheffield United, Sean Dyche had named an unchanged team.
And seven minutes before the break, the Clarets boss saw his in-form side take the lead, when McNeil picked out the supporting Taylor, who curled a left-wing cross around Fredericks towards the penalty spot.
With the lunging Aaron Cresswell caught in two minds, Rodriguez bravely stooped in front of the left-back’s raised boot to nod the ball in off the floundering Fabiański’s crossbar and put his side ahead with his 10th goal of the season.
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The Hammers needed a quick response and they almost conjured up an instant reply but the breaking Antonio somehow curled his 12-yarder around the helplessly-exposed Pope and onto the outside of the right-hand post.
And, after Vydra scuffed wide in reply, Yarmolenko then saw the ‘keeper scoop his low, angled effort away from the base of that same upright to keep his side’s lead intact at the interval.
Emerging for the second half, Burnley looked in no mood to sit on their slender lead as Vydra quickly forced a corner at the near post before mustering a few scares in and around Fabiański’s area and, after James Tarkowski was booked for a nasty rake on Bowen, the Czech striker retired.
That saw the Hammers nemesis Chris Wood step from the bench having never failed to score for the Clarets in his five games against the hosts and, having seen him net half-a-dozen goals in those previous encounters, the Kiwi was the last person Moyes’ boys wanted to enter the fray.
With torrential rain tumbling from the Stratford skies, Haller also came on for Yarmolenko and, within seconds of his arrival, West Ham’s record signing saw Pope incredibly divert his low eight-yarder beyond the far post with an outstretched boot.
At the other end, that man Wood slid home Phil Bardsley’s low, left-wing cross but a VAR review confirmed that the New Zealander was offside and, with Fabiański then tipping away another low, angled drive, for once, the striker was destined to draw a blank against the Hammers on his 100th Premier League appearance.
Sadly for the Hammers, though, all that first-half zip and zest had been washed away by those summertime showers and with the clock ticking down, Albian Ajeti – an £8million signing from Basel - made a rare appearance from the bench.
But the Swiss international striker’s arrival came far too late to rescue anything for his side, who now head to Norwich City on Saturday lunchtime with work still to do if they are to guarantee Premier League safety.
West Ham: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Yarmolenko (Haller 62), Fornals (Ajeti 86), Bowen, Antonio.
Unused subs: Balbuena, Lanzini, Noble, Wilshere, Masuaku, Randolph, Johnson.
Burnley: Pope, Bardsley, Long, Tarkowski, Taylor, Pieters, Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil, Rodriguez, Vydra (Wood 58).
Unused subs: Gudmundsson, Brady, Peacock-Farrell, Thompson, Dunne, Benson, Goodridge, Driscoll-Glennon.
Booked: Tarkowski (57), Fredericks (64).
Referee: Michael Oliver.