West Ham 0 Burnley 1: Pope is Clarets’ saviour as Rodriguez heads Hammers into deeper trouble

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WEST HAM don’t yet need divine intervention to avoid the drop – but they could have done without the Pope being against them.

Nick Pope was an unbeatable force as he pulled off save after save to deny David Moyes’ side the three points that might well be enough to ensure Premier League football for another year.

Defeat, courtesy of Jay Rodriguez’s excellent first half header, means the Hammers stay mired in trouble with four games left of the campaign.

And they will be praying to avoid another coming up against another keeper in the kind of form as the Burnley stopper showed between now and the end of the campaign.

Quite how many gaffes Jordan Pickford has to make before Pope becomes England’s number one is unclear, but he produced another commanding display to thwart West Ham on several occasions.

Time and again the Hammers thought they would score, and on each occasion Pope stood tall to keep them at bay.

It means Moyes has to take his side to Norwich this weekend with the pressure still on them after they failed to put distance between themselves and the bottom three.

With their relegation rivals seemingly faltering at every opportunity, there had been a growing feeling that the Hammers were all but safe on the back of their previous two games.

Victory over Chelsea and the draw at in-form Newcastle had certainly given them breathing space, and that the win to all but guarantee survival would be a formality.

But such an attitude did huge disservice to Burnley, and right from the start you almost sensed they were coming into the match eager to prove their point.

Sean Dyche’s side were hungrier than the Hammers in the opening exchanges, snapping into tackles and largely dominating.

In fact, the Clarets should really have opened the scoring on 12 minutes when Charlie Taylor’s cross was held up by Matej Vydra who fed Erik Pieters – only for the midfielder to sky his shot from close range.

And when Vydra glanced a header from Dwight McNeil’s free-kick towards the far corner it needed a sharp save from Lukasz Fabianksi to spare West Ham.

Both chances had been created from the left – something that would come back to bite the Hammer hard later in the half.

In fairness to the London side, though, they finally began to show something going forward with Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio both looking the most threatening.

Soucek would actually have celebrated his third goal in as many matches on 28 minutes had it not been for a fine save from Nick Pope to keep out his volley.

Pope has more than genuine claims to be England’s number one keeper right now, and he again showed why a minute later saving with his feet to deny Antonio.

Seven minutes before the break, Burnley took the lead with a goal that will have left Moyes fuming.

Time and again he has bemoaned his side conceding sloppy goals, yet the Hammers allowed Taylor so much time and space out on the left to whip in his cross.

There, Aaron Cresswell stood like a statue waiting for the ball to reach him, allowing Rodriguez to dash in front of him and glance home a header off the underside of the bar.

It was a quality finish from Rodriguez, but Cresswell’s brain-freeze was symptomatic of the problems West Ham have suffered all season.

And with much to do to ensure safety, they could also do with taking the chances that come their way, once of which presented itself within a minute of falling behind.

A ricochet just outside the area left Antonio free on goal with just Pope to beat, but the striker’s placed effort glanced the wrong side of the post and the opportunity went begging.

There was still time for another chance before the break as Yarmolenko cut in on his left foot, but again Pope was up to the task, diving low to keep out the shot at his near post.

There was at least more intensity from the home side after the break, though little in the way of chances.

So on the hour Moyes summoned the cavalry in the shape of £45million striker Sebastien Haller, making his first appearances since the restart after injury.

And Haller was denied the equaliser with his first touch, Pope somehow getting a foot to his shot and diverting the ball wide for a corner.

West Ham were throwing everything at it, with Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Haller all being thwarted by desperate Burnley defending as they got their bodies in front of every effort on goal.

Burnley even though they had doubled their lead on 76 minutes when sub Chris Wood slid in to touch Phil Bradley’s cross home – only for the flag to rule he was just offside.

Not that Burnley or Dyche will care as they held on to the win which saw them climb above Tottenham, two points adrift of Arsenal in 7th.

Rodriguez glanced home a header in off the underside of the bar following a superb cross by Charlie Taylor.

David Moyes’ men continued to slick enough at times in response – but struggled against the Claret’s impressive defending.

They failed to create much of note as they upped possession in the last 20 minutes, save for a fine effort from sub Sebastien Haller.

And in fact Lukasz Fabianski kept the Hammers in it late on with a smart low save from Chris Wood.

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