Hammers relegated to Europa Conference League after goals from Veltman and Gross

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NO MATTER what he says, it was not the European competition that David Moyes wanted.

West Ham arrived on the south coast knowing they were already assured of a place in Europe next season.

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Danny Welbeck and Pascal Gross were among the scorers as Brighton turned the game around.Credit: Getty

Seventh place was theirs, the Europa Conference League the prize, but a favorable switcheroo on the final day would have seen them jump to sixth and return to the Europa League.

All the Hammers needed was to beat Brighton at the Amex and hope Crystal Palace denied Manchester United the three points.

Palace have done their job. Moyes’ men failed at the last hurdle.

Of course, European football for a second straight season is nothing to sniff at, especially as West Ham were battling relegation a few years ago.

But the Europa League – where they made so many great memories this year by reaching the semi-finals – was within their reach after Michail Antonio fired in the first half.

Yet second-half strikes from Joel Veltman, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck shattered those dreams of a better next campaign.

It was a hotly contested match at the Amex

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It was a hotly contested match at the AmexCredit: Reuters

An impressive home win meanwhile gave Graham Potter’s men their best ever Prem result of ninth place, just five points behind West Ham.

Unsurprisingly, Moyes has retained the same starting XI since his side’s impressive 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the London Stadium last time out.

Retired skipper Mark Noble was on the bench hoping to make his 550and and last club appearance while injured Said Benrahma was ruled out altogether.

Brighton made just one change with Leandro Trossard dropping out after receiving a knock against Leeds with Adam Webster entering a back three.

Needing a win to end their season on a high, the story was against West Ham who had failed to win any of their nine Prem meetings with Brighton before this one.

Six of them were draws, and the first legs of their 10and high-flying clash had all the makings of another under the seaside sun.

The Hammers may have still been playing for something, but their relaxed start said otherwise with just 31 per cent possession in the opening 15 minutes.

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Moises Caicedo was in the thick of the action – fresh off his superb goal here against Man United – as he tested Fabianski’s palms with a weak effort.

The Ecuadorian was then given even more space at the edge of West Ham’s penalty area before launching Marc Cucurella for a blocked attempt.

Moyes was spitting feathers over his team’s lack of enthusiasm to get on the ball and impact the game without him.

The atmosphere also needed spicing up, and that came a long way as news leaked into the 37and minute from Palace taking the lead at Selhurst Park.

And three minutes later they were cheering on their own side as Antonio ignored Lewis Dunk just outside the box after a throw-in from Vladimir Coufal.

The 32-year-old swung his laces into the top corner of Robert Sanchez for West Ham’s first shot on target.

Surprisingly, the strike was Antonio’s FIRST goal outside the box in the 56thand attempt, while that also took his season tally to 10.

The goal prompted wild complaints from the hosts for a foul on Dunk in the build-up.

Replays showed the Gulls centre-back – all 6ft 4in – fell in a heap after very little contact.

An undeserved lead perhaps, and Brighton came out in the second half a completely different animal thanks to a half-time switch from Neal Maupay for Yves Bissouma.

The French striker instantly caused West Ham backline chaos and Potter was rewarded with a 50and minute equalizer.

Solly March brilliantly controlled the ball in the box to set up Veltman, whose shot squirmed under Fabianski’s body.

One to forget for the Polish keeper, and one that inspired Brighton to go kill.

Cucurella slid past Maupay in the penalty area but was eventually cleared by Aaron Cresswell, while Danny Welbeck closed in after a 1-2 with Pascal Gross.

West Ham lived their life dangerously, clinging to any counter-attack they could launch with little success or power at the other end.

Moyes was preparing to respond with a trio of changes with 10 minutes to go, including Noble, but Gross sabotaged his plans when he found the net.

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Fed by Welbeck with his back to goal, Gross turned Tomas Soucek with ease and this time left Fabianski without a chance from 18 yards out.

Noble, Andriy Yarmolenko and Ben Johnson continued to trot, only to see Welbeck go home for a third added time in stoppage time.


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