West Ham bid an unforgettable farewell to the Boleyn Ground as 112 years at Upton Park ended with a remarkable comeback win against Manchester United.
Unseemly pre-match behaviour and a 45-minute delay due to the visitors’ late arrival was hardly the ideal start, but that was soon forgotten as a wonderful 2,398th and final match before the Hammers’ summer move to the Olympic Stadium.
Louis van Gaal’s men looked set to be the party-poopers after Anthony Martial’s second-half brace cancelled out Diafra Sakho’s early effort, only for Michail Antonio and Winston Reid to secure West Ham a 3-2 win on a breathless and emotional evening in east London.
This was quite the farewell party and one which kick-starts West Ham’s hopes of European qualification, while the turnaround saw United blow the chance of usurping rivals Manchester City in the final Champions League berth ahead of the Barclays Premier League finale on Sunday.
It was a night nobody at Upton Park will ever forget and certainly went a long way to making up for the pre-match incidents outside the ground, where the late-arriving United bus was hit by glass bottles and other missiles.
One police officer and a member of the public received minor injuries in the trouble that made way for a far more positive atmosphere inside Upton Park, where Van Gaal’s men struggled with the early intensity as Sakho opened the scoring with a deflected effort.
The visitors eventually found their composure and looked set to make Slaven Bilic’s men pay for failing to make their dominance count, with Martial grabbing two second-half goals to the audible frustration of the home support.
Disappointment would soon turn to delirium as Upton Park received an incredible send-off.
Dimitri Payet – the Hammers’ outstanding player this season – was the architect, first sending in the cross that Antonio powered home before sending in a free-kick that Reid directed in the final goal to secure victory.
The final match at Upton Park certainly lived up to the billing and the home side needed just 10 minutes to go ahead when play eventually got under way at 8.30pm.
Manuel Lanzini’s smart cross from the left found Sakho, whose curling strike clipped Daley Blind and beat David de Gea in front of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand.
Upton Park was rocking and the hosts looked set to add another, with Mark Noble’s audacious volley blocked and star turn Payet firing a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Attempts from that distance were always going to be a big ask but Andy Carroll wasted a glorious chance to net in the 19th minute, being denied by De Gea having been inexplicably played onside by Blind.
United were struggling to cope with Bilic’s men and looked to have fallen further behind when Antonio rose to bundle home at the far post, but the goal was ruled out after the ball went out of play in the build-up.
Antonio saw a strike deflected just wide as the half came to a close, with former West Ham midfielder Michael Carrick brought on for Morgan Schneiderlin at the break as the visitors looked to continue the improvements they had shown towards the end of the opening period.
The home side were now struggling to break down Van Gaal’s men and the fans in the Bobby Moore Stand tried to wind up De Gea by refusing to give the ball back.
When he finally took his goal-kick, though, Marcus Rashford gathered the ball and played through Juan Mata, whose cutback was directed home by Martial.
A water bottle appeared to be thrown De Gea’s way as he celebrated in front of the home fans, with Payet curling into the side-netting and Sakho missing from close range as the hosts attempted to quickly wrestle back the advantage.
Martial cleared a Carroll header off the line but it was Darren Randolph’s goal rather than the Red Devils’ that the ball would head into in the 72nd minute.
Play was broken up in the middle and Rashford played the ball out to Martial, whose burst took him past Reid and the striker’s cross-shot beat the West Ham goalkeeper at the near post.
The frustration was palpable inside Upton Park, but four minutes later the mood swung wildly.
Payet’s free-kick may have been blocked but he collected the loose ball and crossed for Antonio to power a header past De Gea.
Things would get better still in the 80th minute as Payet swung in a free-kick that Reid got to with just enough power to beat De Gea, sending the home faithful wild.
It proved the final goal in Upton Park’s 112-year history as the ground received a send-off to remember.