LONDON: West Ham’s loan signing of Jesse Lingard from Manchester United was the best piece of business conducted by any Premier League club during the January transfer window.
The 28-year-old England forward had been relegated to the substitutes’ bench or even a seat in the stands by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and apparently forgotten by national team manager Gareth Southgate. But he has capitalised on the West Ham opportunity to reawaken his career.
Lingard underlined his central role in West Ham’s pursuit of a place in the top four by scoring twice in the first half in the Hammers’ 3:2 win over fellow Champions League hopefuls Leicester. Victory lifted manager David Moyes’s team from sixth place up to fourth and only one point behind the Foxes.
West Ham took the lead through Lingard after 29 minutes on an assist from Arthur Masuaku and extended it when he converted a cross from Jarrod Bowen one minute before the interval. Lingard was also involved in the move which saw Bowen score a third early in the second half.
Lingard, who has scored eight goals in nine games for Hammers, said: Lingard said: “It is great. We are in something to fight for. Games are like cup finals. We grind out the wins and take the points home. The lads battle on. There is a big belief in the team. Top four would be a brilliant achievement. First time in West Ham’s history in the Champions League.”
Kelechi Iheanacho pulled a goal back to give Leicester hope, before grabbing his 11th goal in 11 games in stoppage time, but the Hammers held on to ensure they did not surrender a 3:0 lead for the second straight home game.
Leicester might have achieved a better result with a full-strength team. However manager Brendon Rodgers dropped star forwards James Maddison and Ayoze Perez as well as midfielder Hamza Choudhury for breaching Premier League guidelines on squad isolation.
Arsenal kept alive their hopes of European qualification with a 3-0 victory at Bramall Lane as Sheffield United’s inevitable relegation from the Premier League edged ever nearer.
A fine team goal scored by Alexandre Lacazette gave the visitors the half-time lead before Gabriel Martinelli marked his recall to the team with a goal. Lacazette struck again late on for his 50th Premier League goal for the Gunners.
This was Arsenal’s first clean sheet in 14 matches in all competitions and the three points moved Mikel Arteta’s team up to ninth in the table, seven points behind sixth-placed Liverpool.
For the Blades, it was a 25th Premier League loss of the season and they remain rooted to the bottom of the table. A third straight defeat for interim boss Paul Heckingbottom – a second in the league – leaves the South Yorkshire club 18 points from safety with seven games to go.