West Ham‘s top-four hopes fade despite Benrahma salvaging point at Brighton

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<span>Photograph: Ian Walton/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Ian Walton/Reuters

No one said it was going to be easy, not least David Moyes. But after the substitute Saïd Benrahma’s late equaliser earned his side a point with his first-ever Premier League goal, West Ham’s manager will still be clinging to the hope that they can seal a miraculous top-four finish against all the odds.

When Danny Welbeck opened the scoring for Brighton with just six minutes left to play, it appeared that despite all their efforts West Ham would come away with nothing. Yet Benrahma’s cool finish when the ball fell to him outside the area 195 seconds later at least gives them a fighting chance of ending their excellent season with something to show for it.

Related: Brighton 1-1 West Ham: Premier League – as it happened

With West Brom and Southampton to play in their final two fixtures and a five-point gap to make up on Chelsea, Moyes admitted a top-four finish remains a tall order but insisted they have to take their opportunities. “The players know what we want to achieve,” he said. “The character of the team is fantastic but we can’t keep giving the opposition a goal. We have to be more clinical.”

Had VAR adjudged Adam Webster to have handled Jesse Lingard’s cross in the dying moments then it could have been even better for West Ham, although that would have been an injustice to a Brighton team that is steadily improving under Graham Potter. It is now eight points from their last four matches at home that has helped secure their top-flight status for an unprecedented fifth season in a row, with the carrot of potentially finishing above rivals Crystal Palace for the first time since they were promoted in 2017 still on offer thanks to a vastly improved performance in the second half. “We’re disappointed not to hold on having scored so late on but a draw was probably the fair result,” said Potter.

After the costly defeat to Everton, Moyes made three changes including selecting Declan Rice in midfield for the first time since he picked up a knee injury on international duty at the end of March – an extremely timely return for his hopes of making Gareth Southgate’s England squad next week.

Lingard, who Moyes again admitted this week he would love to sign on a permanent deal from Manchester United in the summer, is another dead cert for the European Championships given his form since joining on loan in January. Despite his promptings, however, it took West Ham until the last 15 minutes of the first half to impose themselves on the game.

A hopelessly mistimed Michail Antonio header that was hacked away to safety by Dan Burn at least indicated that West Ham were getting closer, before a delightful touch from Pablo Fornals almost created an opening until Brighton’s defenders snuffed out the chance. Fornals also saw another goalbound effort blocked inside the area as West Ham piled on the pressure, before Tomas Soucek’s powerful effort was pushed away to safety by Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sánchez.

Having been largely a spectator for the first half, Lukasz Fabianski was called into action just after the break as Alireza Jahanbakhsh broke free on the right but decided to shoot instead of picking out the unmarked Welbeck.

Soucek was next to go close with a header that whistled just over the bar before Fabianski saved again, this time from Leandro Trossard. Jahanbakhsh should then have given Brighton the lead after he was picked out by Burn’s brilliant long ball and rounding Fabianski, only for the Iran international’s shot from a tight angle to miss by a matter of inches.

West Ham’s remarkable campaign so far has been largely based on defensive solidity and ruthlessly exploiting space on the break but with the impressive Yves Bissouma patrolling the middle of the pitch, they struggled to create openings. Moyes turned to Benrahma in the hope that the Algerian could provide the missing spark as time quickly ticked away.

It was his cross that picked out Craig Dawson for what looked like being West Ham’s biggest chance of the night, before Welbeck pounced to slot home a brilliant pass from substitute Percy Tau for his 50th Premier League goal. It seemed Brighton had the points sewn up but Benrahma clearly had other ideas.

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