Belfast Telegraph

West Ham reliant on Manchester United after Stoke come from behind to win

Stoke City 2 - West Ham Utd 1

By Phil Medlicott

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic expressed his frustration after his side's 2-1 loss at Stoke left him having to cheer on Manchester United.

Victory at the Britannia Stadium in what was their final Barclays Premier League game of the season would have ensured the Hammers European football for next term, and they took the lead through Michail Antonio in the 23rd minute.

But they failed to convert a host of chances thereafter, while their hosts came from behind thanks to Giannelli Imbula's 55th-minute strike and a header two minutes from time from substitute Mame Diouf.

It means seventh-placed West Ham will only qualify for the Europa League if Manchester United beat Crystal Palace in next Saturday's FA Cup final.

And Bilic said after the Stoke match: "Of course we want them to win, so for those 90 minutes that would probably be right - we will be Manchester United fans, hoping they win the game, because I think we really deserve to be in Europe, given the way we have played this season."

West Ham had lost only one of their last 12 league games prior to this one, winning six of them.

And they would have been firm favourites to register another victory if Diafra Sakho had not seen his shot well saved by Shay Given just prior to Imbula's goal.

Glenn Whelan made the last in a quick succession of goal-line clearances by Stoke at 1-1 when he hooked away a ball that came off Cheikhou Kouyate, with mere inches in it.

For Stoke, it was a first win in seven matches and took them to a ninth-placed finish for the third successive season under boss Mark Hughes.

When it was put to him that that was a good achievement, Hughes said: "It is a bit more than a good achievement, surely - cut us a bit of slack!

"No, it is fantastic. I think of all the seasons we have managed ninth, this is the most satisfying, because it has been more difficult this year."


Belfast Telegraph


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