Football: West Ham go fourth with 2-1 Premier League win over a Tottenham side in freefall

West Ham's Jesse Lingard (left) celebrating after scoring against Tottenham Hotspur during their EPL match on Feb 21, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) - West Ham claimed fourth spot in the English Premier League, as goals early in each half by Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard earned them a 2-1 home victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Feb 21).

A seventh win in their last nine league games moved the Hammers two points above Chelsea (43) in their mounting challenge for a Champions League spot while fellow London team Tottenham (36) have slumped to ninth.

Antonio gave West Ham the perfect start at the London Stadium when he fired past Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the fifth minute and Lingard doubled West Ham's lead two minutes after the break.

But Tottenham, with Gareth Bale on as a second-half substitute, were given a lifeline when Lucas Moura headed in the Welshman's corner and they laid siege to the West Ham goal.

Bale lashed a shot against the crossbar and West Ham had another lucky escape in stoppage time as Vladimir Coufal's clearance deflected back off Son Heung-min and struck the post.

Tottenham had 19 goal attempts to the four of West Ham but were unable to prevent a fifth defeat in six league games as the pressure begins to mount on Jose Mourinho.

While the closing stages were nervy for West Ham, they once again showed that they are equipped to maintain their unlikely bid for a top-four finish having flirted with relegation last season.

Manager David Moyes, who returned for a second spell as West Ham manager when he replaced Manuel Pellegrini in December 2019, has forged a steely mentality in his squad and they showed great resolve to withstand Tottenham's late pressure.

"It is a great result for us," the Scot, who claimed a first win over Jose Mourinho in 16 attempts, said.

"Today we felt it was a big, big task. For us to get a result and keep our momentum going is really good."

Mourinho played down talk of a crisis, saying his side's performance had warranted more.

"I feel sad, obviously. I feel the result should have been a different one from what we played especially in the second half," the Portuguese said.

Antonio typifies West Ham's spirit and he produced a trademark poacher's goal when Jarrod Bowen's cross caused panic in the Spurs defence and the striker reacted well to fire past Frenchman Lloris.

It was his 42nd Premier League goal for West Ham, each from inside the penalty area.

West Ham wasted a chance soon after when Lingard opted to try and pass to Antonio rather than shoot himself.

At the other end, Harry Kane fired over after a jinking run by Erik Lamela, while home goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made two decent saves to deny Lamela and Kane.

Mourinho sent on Bale for Lamela at half-time but before he had touched the ball West Ham struck again, Lingard rifling home a shot after linking up with Pablo Fornals. The goal was initially flagged as offside but a VAR check allowed it.

From then on it was all Spurs, with Bale showing glimpses of the brilliance that he regularly demonstrated during his first spell at Tottenham before moving to Real Madrid.

The 31-year-old whipped in a corner for Moura to head home and he was a constant menace as Spurs swarmed in attack.

He also produced some silky touches down the right and when Kane picked him out on the edge of the area, his thunderous shot rattled the crossbar.

But West Ham rode their luck and hung on to a victory that left them nine points above their London rivals, heaping pressure on Mourinho whose side are stuck in a rut.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.