Europe hanging by a thread – Stoke 2, Hammers 1

Slaven Bilic was left disappointed by his side's failure to achieve sixth place

Final  game of the 2015/16 season and the prospect of ending up with a CL berth has long been extinguished.

So all that was needed was a win to ensure that 6th place or better was secured and Southampton slip up. The amazing scenes of the Man Utd game gave me great hope that we were going to cement our position in the league and qualify for Europe.

As our song goes “And like my dreams, they fade and die” that line of bubbles seemed ever more appropriate. The chance of guaranteeing European football was blown by a game that we totally dominated.

For the first half was quite telling with Stoke only managing one shot on target. We were all over Stoke but the finishing was poor. The Hammers finally got the break with a goal from Antonio despite masses of bodies in the way. 50 mins Sahko totally squandered an open chance with a ball in from Antonio.

Michail Antonio scores for West HamMichail Antonio scores for West HamThis should have been 2-0 and the game wrapped up. But the second goal was proving elusive – despite all the huff and puff there was just nothing

Stoke levelled after 55 mins – and it really does show that the spurned chances have cost the Hammers. It was frustrating that Stoke equalised as the Hammers were the better team yet nothing to show. I was also keeping half on the Southampton score as well, but they were deciding to ruin the party to boot. I hate Palace at the best of times, but when I need them to do us a favour and beat a team, they curl up and keel over……..but they also have one eye on the cup next weekend.

On 69 mins a header should have been on target from Valencia – just shocking and as I understand a player who needs to be sold in the summer – confidence has just gone from him. 75 mins, a scramble – just hit it!! Glenn Whelan two minutes later prevents a certain goal by clearing off the line – damn you goal line technology!

Then the sucker punch when on 88 minutes a Diouf header makes it 2-1 and game over. A kick in the balls and it hurt – all that hard work over the season un-done, but as I have said before, there is no divine right that West Ham get Europe or any other rights.

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic: “Basically, the most important thing today was to win no matter how and that we didn’t do. We’re disappointed to lose sixth place in the last game of the season. But it was still a great season for us. It makes us proud.

“I’d like to congratulate Stoke – they took their chances. But it is hard to take this defeat. For the whole game we played much better football. You have to take 50% of your chances. I said to my players at half-time if it was basketball we would be 20 points clear.

“Despite losing, I’m happy because we played really good football and were totally dominant in a difficult game.”

I hate to say it but we need a world class striker. It is very telling that we are short in this department and also Carroll going off injured again means we have to do something fast. Sahko is now blowing hot and cold, Emineke is not who he things he is, Valencia is just not good enough anymore after so much initial promise. There are some rumours going around – a good read can be found here via the excellent The West Ham Way.

What a annoying end to the season, but in turn what a fabulous one. I will be musing about this shortly, hopefully after the FA Cup final. Speaking of which:

West Ham United will have to wait until the outcome of next week’s FA Cup final to discover whether they will enter the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds.

Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Stoke City leaves them seventh in the Barclays Premier League table, but should Manchester United win the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace, the Hammers will still qualify for Europe by virtue of their league position.

If the Red Devils are victorious at Wembley on Saturday, the Hammers will enter the Europa League at the third qualifying round stage.

Read more at http://www.whufc.com/News/Articles/2016/May/15-May/Hammers-face-wait-on-Europe#ATQ1jPO5GIIXork8.99

Stoke City: Given, Cameron, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Whelan, Walters, Arnautovic, Imbula, Bojan (Adam 78), Joselu (Diouf 73)

Subs not used: Haugaard, Bardsley, Muniesa, Shaqiri, Crouch

Bookings: Imbula, Diouf
West Ham: Randolph, Tomkins (Moses 86), Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Antonio, Lanzini, Sakho (Emenike 61), Carroll (Valencia 66)

Subs not used: Spiegel, Byram, Collins, Obiang

Bookings: Kouyate
Referee: Mike Jones
Attendance: 27,721

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