Benrahma magic averts disaster, but West Ham suffer European heartache

    A superb Said Benrahma strike prevented defeat, though more dropped points put West Ham’s Champions League hopes on life support at Brighton.

    West Ham entered the contest knowing anything less than three points would likely end their quest for Champions League qualification. Brighton, meanwhile, were seeking to finish as high in the table as possible with their Premier League status for next season secured last week.

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    The Hammers started the brighter of the two, though neither posed a significant goal threat in the early going.

    A lucrative source of goals for the awayside has been set pieces this season. Craig Dawson has benefitted as much as most, though failed to make the contact required when glancing an Aaron Cresswell corner out for a throw.

    The left-back again provided the ammunition for West Ham’s aerial threats to attack moments later. It was Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio’s turn to launch themselves at the delivery, though neither could find the killer touch.

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    David Moyes’ men continued to push as the half wore on, and saw a Pablo Fornals effort superbly blocked by a swarn of Brighton defenders.

    The Seagulls were holding firm in their own box, but lacked potency at the other end, failing to register an effort on target as the sides went into the break goalless.

    Perhaps sensing the game was there for the taking, West Ham flew out of the traps after the interval.

    A driving run from Antonio saw a lashed effort fly wide, while Jarrod Bowen almost saw a fizzed cutback deflected into his own net by Adam Webster.

    Alireza Jahanbakhsh almost sprung a surprise when capitalising on an errant headed back pass from the otherwise excellent Cresswell.

    Lukasz Fabianski tried in vain to latch on to the ball, but the Iranian winger was a step too quick, pulling his shot agonisingly wide after the goalkeeper was left in no man’s land.

    Moyes shuffled his pack with the introduction of Said Benrahma to replace Bowen. With 25 minutes to go, West Ham were in desperate need of a spark.

    Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez had enjoyed a faultless day until the 72nd minute. The Spaniard dawdled, allowing Fornals to gather possession while drifting towards the byline.

    Fornals sought to pick out the advancing runners in the area but succeeded only in warming the gloves of the relieved goalkeeper.

    The playmaker was becoming increasingly influential on proceedings, but the elusive breakthrough continued to evade he and his side.

    An accurate cross picked Fornals out in a rare pocket of space inside the area. Seemingly unaware of the time and space he held, his rushed flicked attempt failed to force Sanchez into a save.

    West Ham’s lack of cutting edge came back to haunt them with 6 minutes remaining when Danny Welbeck produced a moment of magic in the final third.

    Beating the offside trap after Percy Tau’s incisive through ball, Welbeck, lifted a delicate finish over the onrushing Fabianski to make it 1-0.

    West Ham heads did not drop, and Benrahma hauled his side back on level terms with a superb curling effort that kissed the post.

    That would prove to be the last decisive action of the game as both sides were made to settle for a 1-1 draw.

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