West Ham tame Wolves to cut back in the top four

WOLVERHAMPTON, England, (Reuters) – West Ham United boosted their hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League and gained a berth in the Champions League after an impressive first half helped them to a 3-2 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.

West Ham moved three places up to fourth place on 52 points from 30 games, one more than fifth-placed Chelsea and three ahead of sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool seventh. Wolves remained 14th at 35 points.

West Ham also equaled the club’s Premier League record of seven away victories in a season and gave themselves every chance of breaking it with eight games remaining.

Jesse Lingard, Pablo Fornals and substitute Jarrod Bowen, who replaced the injured Michail Antonio, fired the Hammers to a 3-0 lead before Leander Dendoncker pulled one back for the home team in a thrilling first half.

Fabio Silva hit the resurgent Wolves midway through the second but the home team failed to make their late pressure count as the visitors held out in the closing stages.

Lingard fired West Ham into the lead after he capped a singular run of his own half with a brilliant left-foot finish in the sixth minute after Antonio hit the post with a furious long-range effort.

Fornals made it 2-0 in the 14th with a fine footwork finish after good work by Lingard and Arthur Masuaku, who squared the ball back to the Spaniard.

Bowen added a third in the 38th minute, shortly after coming on for Antonio, as he found space in the middle of the penalty area to beat home keeper Rui Patricio with a solid low shot inside the near post .

Wasteful Wolves, who exacerbated their poor defense in the first half by wasting several chances with a gilt edge, returned to the contest when Dendoncker headed home to Adama Traore’s cross in the 42nd minute.

West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek scored an unassisted goal for handball on the hour and the visitors were forced to hang on in the final 20 minutes after Silva beat visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski with a neat finish midway through the second half.

Wolves were missing from Spanish defender Jonny who was ruled out for the rest of the season just before kick-off with a recurring knee injury.

The home team’s manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, ruled their defense untidy.

“We were very bad at defense and it takes away all the good things we did in attack,” he told Sky Sports.

“The response was good but we started off really bad. Surrendering three goals against a top team like West Ham makes it very difficult to reverse the result. ”