Manuel Lanzini eased the growing pressure on Slaven Bilic as West Ham earned a precious win to lift themselves out of the relegation zone.
It wasn’t pretty but all that mattered was Lanzini’s first-half winner that sealed a first win since August. And how West Ham needed this London derby win. A game that had it all. A missed penalty from Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke, a harsh red card dished out to Aaron Cresswell and chances galore missed.
But the most important stat is the precious three points that moved West Ham. No wonder Bilic could not hide his delight at the final whistle as he celebrated with his players and back room staff.
West Ham needed a change but manager Bilic created his own makeover as he showed off a fuller head off hair.
Few could argue that West Ham’s start to the season had made him want to pull his hair out. Their relocation to thre London Stadium had proved somewhat of a nightmare on and off the pitch. A change was some sorts were needed but Bilic and one welcome note came via the return of Cressswell ahead of schedule. The left-back had been out all season with a knee injury but the he was thrown back in here. He even threatened to make it a dream comeback as he was West Ham’s most potent threat in the early stages.
Pedro Obiang’s ball released Cresswell, playing in a wing-back role in a bid to keep Palace’s widemen quiet, into space but his shot from angle ended up in the side-netting.
Cresswell was proving a real problem for the home side breaking forward outlet as another attack saw him feed Simone Zaza, but the on-loan Italian striker’s effort was tame and was never going to beat Steve Mandanda, the Crystal Palace goalkeeper.
The home side had offered little besides when Wilfried Zaha drove wide from the angle. He he should have hit the target and the same could have been said for Chiekhou Kouyate at the other end. The West Ham midfielder, deployed as part of a three-man defence here, met Dimitri Payet’s corner but headed wide in the 14th minute.
West Ham deserved more for their early enterprise and were duly rewarded in the 19th minute via Lanzini’s super strike.
Payet and Cresswell linked up where the latter’s superb teasing cross saw Lanzini sneak in unmarked to sidefoot home. The Argentine made a difficult finish look easy and Crystal Palace, who had not got out of the blocks, could have no complaints.
Crystal Palace, on the back off 11 points from their last five games, knew anything but a defeat would see them equal their best ever Premier League run.
As the conditions deteriorated so did Palace’s performance.
They most likely did not want the international break and you could see why as they appeared disjointed in an error-strewn first-half performance. Simple passes were going astray, Benteke was having little joy in the air or on the floor while West Ham’s organised back-five at times ensured and Andros Townsend and Zaha barely had a kick.
Crystal Palace had been below-par but finally sprung into life late into the first-half. This time it was West Ham counting their blessings.
Benteke was hauled over by Angelo Ogbonna for a penalty and, even though replays appeared to show it was outside the box, it mattered little as the Belgian’s stuttered run up saw him slice woefully wide.
West Ham were still celebrating the let-off when Benteke found space to meet Joel Ward’s cross, but his header struck the post. Still
Alan Pardew was far from pleased. The Crystal Palace manager sent his players out early into the rain and also made a double change by sending on Yohan Cabaye and Zeki Fryers.
It appeared to have some effect although, in all honesty, Palace could be no worse. Still it was West Ham carving out the chances as Lanzini brought a low save out of Mandanda.
Zaha, however, was an increasing threat and it ended Cresswell’s night early in the 75th minute.
It was harsh and ultimately the wrong decision by referee Martin Atkinson. Having been booked for diving despite appearing to been tripped by Cabaye for a penalty, he was cautioned again by Martin Atkinson for the faintest of tugs that sent Zaha to the ground. West Ham were under serious pressure now but Benteke somehow headed over and Conor Wickham, the Palace substitute, saw his headed tipped over by Adrian as the visitors held out.
Crystal Palace: Mandanda; Ward, Tomkins, Delaney, Kelly (Fryers 46); McArthur (Wickham 70), Ledley (Cabaye 46), Puncheon; Zaha, Townsend, C Benteke
Substitutes not used Hennessey, Campbell, Sako, Lee, Wickham.
West Ham: Adrian, Antonio, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Obiang, Noble, Kouyate, Lanzini (Nordveit 88); Payet (Fernandes 78); Zaza (Calleri 86)
Substitutes not used: Spiegel, Collins, Fletcher, Feghouli.
Referee: Martin Atkinson