West Ham United 1 Stoke City 1: Sub Carroll saves Hammers
PUBLISHED: 22:23 16 April 2018 | UPDATED: 22:23 16 April 2018
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Awesome Andy Carroll stepped from the bench to net a late, late leveller for the Hammers at London Stadium, where he left David Moyes men seven points clear of relegation with just five games left to play.
The West Ham striker has been absent since the New Year but he could not have timed his return any better, netting within just a minute or so of his arrival to wipe-out Peter Crouch’s tap-in.
Indeed, the Stoke substitute looked to have given the Potters an unlikely victory when he scored against the run of play with just 11 minutes remaining, but right on cue, Carroll struck as stoppage-time loomed to leave the Potters still planted in 18th spot.
Victory over Southampton followed by last Sunday’s determined draw at Chelsea meant that Moyes’ men came into this crucial clash in 15th-spot and, having picked up that precious point at Stamford Bridge, the Hammers boss named an unchanged side but he was boosted by the return of fit-again Carroll and Manuel Lanzini, who took their places on the bench alongside last week’s unlucky match-saver, Javier Hernández.
West Ham had already won 3-0 at Stoke in mid-December, where Marco Arnautović had netted upon his return to the Britannia Stadium following his record £24million summer move to the East End.
And with just six minutes on the clock, the accelerating Austrian raced onto Mark Noble’s lofted through ball but with the angle narrowing, Jack Butland blocked the low eight-yarder with his foot at the expense of the evening’s first corner.
Defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday meant that the Potters had kicked-off half-a-dozen points adrift of Premier League safety and, after that fourth successive loss, Paul Lambert made just one switch as Kurt Zouma replaced ex-Hammer Glen Johnson.
Apart from Ramadan Sobhi’s long-ranger that Joe Hart easily fielded at head height, the visitors offered little inside the opening dozen minutes or so but when Xherdan Shaqiri cleverly picked out the overlapping Moritz Bauer, the England ‘keeper had to be at his best to save the advancing Austrian’s low 12-yarder.
At the other end, with on-looking Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate putting two of his ‘keepers under the microscope, Aaron Cresswell saw his awkward 25-yarder shovelled aside by Butland for another corner and with West Ham using every inch of width across the London Stadium pitch, Arthur Masuaku’s low ball into Arnautović created mayhem in the Potters penalty box, where the Hammers won yet another flag-kick.
On the half-hour, with West Ham cheers and Stoke jeers ringing in his ears, Arnautović scuffed an angled shot across the face of goal and then Edimilson Fernandes’ low cross into João Mário was mis-controlled by the Portuguese playmaker at the vital moment.
Pablo Zabaleta also got to the by-line before cutting an inch-perfect pass into the near post, where Arnautović’s point-blank shot ricocheted to safety off the oblivious Butland’s face, while Masuaku and Noble unsuccessfully tried their luck with long-rangers that left it frustratingly blank at the break.
Ten minutes into the second period, Arnautović thought that he had headed the Hammers ahead but in meeting Cresswell’s hanging cross he had strayed marginally offside as Bruno Martins Indi held the line and the Claret and Blue roar was quickly silenced.
In reply, Bauer powered to the West Ham by-line before cutting back to Mame Biram Diouf, who scuffed his six-yarder high into the Stratford sky to the relief of the home fans in the crowd of 56,795.
Midway through the half, though, another offside flag came to Stoke’s rescue, when Fernandes found the net with a 25-yard grasscutter but with Arnautović blocking Butland’s view on the penalty spot, referee Michael Oliver – fresh from last week’s controversial Champions League showdown between Real Madrid and Juventus – disallowed the strike.
Cresswell then saw the airborne Butland beat away his 25-yard free-kick and, with Geoff Cameron already on for Shobhi, tellingly the towering Crouch replaced Bauer for the final 20 minutes, while Hernández stepped from the dug-out as Fernandes retired.
But it was Stoke’s striking substitute who had the most marked impact with 11 minutes remaining, when Diouf failed to convert in the danger-zone and Joe Allen worked the ball back to Shaqiri on the edge of the Hammers area.
With trademark, unerring accuracy, the Swiss international dropped his shoulder and unleashed a low 18-yarder that Hart simply found too hot to handle and, with the World Cup beckoning, the Hammers ‘keeper will not want to see any replays of the grateful Crouch gobbling up the rebound from just a yard.
Moyes had no option but to hurl on Lanzini and Carroll at the expense of Masuaku and Mário and with Crouch having been cautioned for his over-exuberant celebration a flurry of yellow cards followed as Martin Indi, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Badou Ndiaye and Cresswell all went into the book.
But there was still one further twist in the tale and, with the match about to enter stoppage time, Cresswell sent a dipping left-wing cross just inside the Stoke penalty area, where Carroll expertly got in front of Erik Pieters to plant an unstoppable 15-yard volley past Butland to salvage a point for the Hammers.
West Ham: Hart, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Masuaku (Lanzini 81), Noble, Kouyaté, Fernandes (Hernández 76), Mário (Carroll 85), Arnautović. Unused subs: Adrián, Hugill, Evra, Cullen.
Stoke: Butland, Zouma, Pieters, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Bauer (Crouch 70), Allen, Sobhi (Cameron 61), Ndiaye, Shaqiri, Diouf (Ireland 86). Unused subs: Grant, Fletcher, Campbell, Sorenson.
Booked: Crouch (79), Martins Indi (82), Kouyaté (85), Ndiaye (90), Cresswell (90+1).
Referee: Michael Oliver.