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Thursday 8 December 2016

Reds' Euro bid fades - Hammers bid a fond farewell to Upton Park with defeat of United

West Ham 3 Manchester Utd 2

West Ham's Winston Reid celebrates scoring the Hammers' winning goal.
West Ham's Winston Reid celebrates scoring the Hammers' winning goal.

West Ham bid an unforgettable farewell to the Boleyn Ground as 112 years at Upton Park ended with a remarkable comeback win against Manchester United last night.

Unseemly pre-match behaviour and a 45-minute delay due to the visitors' late arrival was hardly the ideal start, but that was soon forgotten as a wonderful 2,398th and final match before the Hammers' summer move to the Olympic Stadium.

Louis van Gaal's men looked set to be the party-poopers after Anthony Martial's second-half brace cancelled out Diafra Sakho's early effort, only for Michail Antonio and Winston Reid to secure West Ham a 3-2 win on a breathless and emotional evening in east London.

This was quite the farewell party and one which kick-starts West Ham's hopes of European qualification, while the turnaround saw United blow the chance of usurping rivals Manchester City in the final Champions League berth ahead of the season finale.

It was a night nobody at Upton Park will ever forget and certainly went a long way to making up for the pre-match incidents outside the ground, where the late-arriving United bus was hit by glass bottles and other missiles.

One police officer and a member of the public received minor injuries in the trouble that made way for a far more positive atmosphere inside Upton Park, where Van Gaal's men struggled with the early intensity as Sakho opened the scoring with a deflected effort.

The visitors eventually found their composure and looked set to make Slaven Bilic's men pay for failing to make their dominance count, with Martial grabbing two second-half goals to the audible frustration of the home support.

Delirium

Disappointment would soon turn to delirium as Upton Park received an incredible send-off.

Dimitri Payet - the Hammers' outstanding player this season - was the architect, first sending in the cross that Antonio powered home before sending in a free-kick that Reid directed in the final goal to secure victory.

West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan blamed United for the delay to kick-off at the last game to be played at Upton Park - despite home fans attacking the visitors' team coach on arrival.

Sullivan was not happy with what he deemed to be a late arrival from the United contingent - with West Ham's pre-planned 45-minute post-match celebration put at risk.

"It is depressing really," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"It will be a late night for our fans and some of them won't be able to stay. I don't understand why United couldn't get here at 4pm.

"They could have got here early. They knew it would be busy. It's crazy.

"There was congestion in the street and they couldn't get the coach in. There were people around the coach, but there was no attack on the coach.

"If you check the coach there won't be any damage to it. If we arrived late at Old Trafford they wouldn't put the kick-off back."

United captain Wayne Rooney spoke of the situation after decamping from the coach and entering Upton Park for the last time.

"It wasn't nice," he said.

"The coach got smashed up, but we're here now, so have to prepare for the game and go out and do our job."

"I'm sure you'll see the images. That's not for me to say, but I think it was disappointing of course.

"We know it's a big game for West Ham, big night for them, leaving the stadium, but I'm sure West Ham as a club will be disappointed with what the fans have done."

The Red Devils have form for arriving late, with their game at Tottenham last month also delayed following traffic problems.

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