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Manuel Lanzini and Declan Rice race away after West Ham go 3-1 ahead of Leeds
Manuel Lanzini (left) and Declan Rice race away after West Ham go 3-1 ahead in second-half stoppage time. Photograph: John Walton/PA
Manuel Lanzini (left) and Declan Rice race away after West Ham go 3-1 ahead in second-half stoppage time. Photograph: John Walton/PA

West Ham strike hammer blow to Leeds’ survival bid as Lanzini caps comeback

This was an abject, pitiful way for Leeds United to squander the chance to take control of their destiny. There was no urgency during a wretched second half, no defiance, and no attempt to stop the day ending in another party for West Ham when Lucas Paquetá, dancing past a feeble challenge from Rasmus Kristensen in added time, gave Manuel Lanzini the opportunity to kill off any prospect of a dramatic comeback.

The stench of relegation hung over Leeds when Lanzini’s goal completed a lively performance from West Ham. Sam Allardyce had seethed throughout the second half, the arch survivalist even spitting out his chewing gum and kicking it away in anger at one stage, and he spoke with an air of resignation afterwards. Listening to him run through his side’s problems, it was as if he had already accepted where this is heading.

Allardyce has taken only one point since replacing Javi Gracia last month and, while there was a bit of noise about leaving nothing to chance when Tottenham visit Elland Road on the final day, the 68‑year‑old was almost raising the white flag when he turned his thoughts to how to reconfigure his attack after losing Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo to injury here.

The galling thing for Allardyce was that his side had displayed none of the fight that brought Everton a crucial point at Wolves on Saturday. A win would have taken Leeds out of the bottom three and Rodrigo volleyed them ahead in the 17th minute. Yet familiar flaws soon took hold.

It was as if Leeds, who have not kept a clean sheet since 25 February, thought it was going to be easy. They played as if they were sitting pretty in mid-table; as if they assumed that West Ham would already be dreaming of facing Fiorentina in next month’s Europa Conference League final.

Everton and Leicester, the other sides left in the relegation scrap, need not have worried. West Ham played with integrity, even though their win against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday had taken a physical and emotional toll, and made light of David Moyes’s decision to make six changes. The game changed when Declan Rice equalised and it was little surprise when Jarrod Bowen made it 2-1 midway through the second half.

Leeds’s goalscorer Rodrigo looks dejected after West Ham take a 2-1 lead
Leeds’s goalscorer Rodrigo looks dejected after West Ham take a 2-1 lead. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Admittedly West Ham did not start well. It was not long before Rice was urging his teammates to wake up. They were being caught out by simple balls over the top and were fortunate not to concede when Rodrigo misread Bamford’s cross. Leeds also went close when Jack Harrison volleyed at Leeds at Lukasz Fabianski.

Allardyce had made only two changes, Pascal Struijk replacing the suspended Junior Firpo at left-back and the steely Adam Forshaw coming in for Sam Greenwood in midfield, and the plan was working when the visitors went ahead.

The goal could not have been more Allardycian: a long throw from Weston McKennie, a mass of bodies in the West Ham area. Cue the battle. Players from both sides leapt for the header and everyone missed it. Rodrigo, holding off Angelo Ogbonna, smashed a volley past Fabianski.

Throw-in, volley: could there possibly be a simpler route to goal? The ignominy stung West Ham, especially as they had conceded in similar fashion against Brentford last weekend. Wary of a rollocking from Moyes, they began to play. Joel Robles denied Tomas Soucek.

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The strain began to show on Leeds. West Ham soon put together a lovely move. The ingenuity came from Pablo Fornals after he took a pass from Bowen. The Spaniard, West Ham’s goalscorer in Alkmaar, scooped a beautiful pass over Struijk and Bowen lifted the ball across for Rice to mark the sixth anniversary of his professional debut by equalising with a composed finish at the far post.

Much has changed since an 18‑year‑old Rice came off the bench in a win against Burnley in 2017. The midfielder is likely to leave this summer and this may well have been his last home game for West Ham. Nobody, though, can accuse Rice of letting his focus drift. He is still driving this team on and his goal led to a period of dominance from the hosts, Robles denying them a second when he smothered an effort from Emerson Palmieri.

Leeds were beginning to panic. Bamford limped off after the equaliser, Wilfried Gnonto coming on, and Allardyce turned away in irritation after Harrison failed to punish an error from Kurt Zouma just before half-time.

West Ham, who replaced Zouma with Thilo Kehrer during the interval, looked more assertive. There were chances for Paquetá, Soucek and Danny Ings. Leeds could not get anything going and West Ham were rewarded for their dominance when Bowen beat Robles with a cute finish after a fine pass from Ings.

Leeds got what they deserved. Brendan Aaronson, Gnonto and Crysencio Summerville were criticised by Allardyce for doing little after coming on. There was a brief rally and Emerson denied Summerville. Yet it was too little too late, and that is likely to be the story of Leeds’s season. They had the sinking feeling when Paquetá set up Lanzini.

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