Aaron Cresswell: That’s the fight we need to show
“There’s nothing better than winning in the last minute,” West Ham United defender Aaron Cresswell smiled – a sentiment shared by the scores of Claret and Blue-clad supporters watching on from home on Wednesday night.
The Irons left-back – who scored a memorable winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season – had just seen late substitute Andriy Yarmolenko race away to do the same at London Stadium, the Hammers’ first three points since the season restart.
A classic London derby was full of testing moments for Cresswell and his team-mates – from a controversially disallowed West Ham goal, to a Chelsea penalty moments later – but the Irons were simply not to be deterred.
Moments after Willian had put the Blues ahead from the spot, just before half-time, Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Soucek got on the end of a Jarrod Bowen corner to nod in from an almost identical position to his disallowed strike.
That proved the catalyst for a brilliant footballing display from the home side in the second half. First, a flowing move, which saw every outfield player touch the ball, led to Michail Antonio putting the Irons in front from close range.
Then, after Willian struck again with a well-placed free-kick, West Ham demonstrated their powers of recovery once more, counter-attacking at pace to allow Yarmolenko to win it late on.
I thought we dug deep, even when we went 1-0 down, to get the goal to level it up, and then kick on second half, when I thought we were magnificent
Speaking to Premier League Productions after the game, Cresswell explained that the Hammers’ graft, defiance and quality were exactly the kind of qualities they will need to display in their six remaining top-flight fixtures.
“It was just something where we needed that little rub of the green,” Cresswell said, referring to Soucek’s disallowed goal.
“I haven’t had the chance to look back at the goal. I believe that it’s tight, but these thing happen and that’s what VAR was brought in for.
“I thought we dug deep, even when we went 1-0 down, to get the goal to level it up, and then kick on second half, when I thought we were magnificent.
“They got the penalty and then Willian stuck the free-kick in, which was kind of disappointing, but credit to the lads – they dug deep, and this is what we’ve got to do now for the next six games: fight as hard as we can, and give everything we’ve got.”
The goal was Yarmolenko’s first in a West Ham shirt since September, the Ukraine forward having missed much of the action prior to lockdown with injury.
In only his second appearance since, Yarmolenko’s late intervention on Wednesday typified a stirring display from David Moyes’ side, who simply refused to leave the pitch with anything other than victory.
The result boosts West Ham up to 16th in the Premier League table, three points clear of their rivals in the drop zone – but Cresswell believes it will count for little if they cannot renew their focus ahead of Sunday’s trip to Newcastle United.
“It was late on. There’s nothing better than winning in the last minute,” Cresswell recalled.
“I’m so pleased for Yarmolenko, who’s had to dig deep at times, and tonight he’s come on, given us everything he’s got, and he’s won us the game.
“We saw the results over the last few days certainly went our way. We had to capitalise on that, and this pushes us three points now away from the bottom three, with a little better goal difference. Now, we need to focus on the next game and not look too far into the future.”