West Ham’s hopes of a top-four Premier League finish suffered a major blow as they were held at Brighton.
The result sees the Hammers remain sixth, a point behind Liverpool in fifth and five adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, with two games remaining.
In a game containing few attacking highlights, Danny Welbeck appeared to have given the hosts a late victory, clipping an effort over Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski after racing on to Percy Tau’s pass.
However, the Hammers levelled three minutes later when substitute Said Benrahma found the top right corner from the edge of the home penalty area.
The quality of the strike was out of keeping with a contest in which both sides struggled to find a spark in the final third.
And while David Moyes’ side pressed forward for a winner, they could not justifiably claim to have done enough to merit all three points, with Craig Dawson and Tomas Soucek both heading earlier opportunities wide.
Until Welbeck scored his 50th Premier League goal, Alireza Jahanbakhsh had gone closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts, arrowing an effort wide of the left post with Fabianski stranded off his line.
The Seagulls, who stay 17th, have now dropped 25 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season.
Brighton fail to take next step
With their place in the division already guaranteed for next term, a Brighton victory would have seen them take a major step towards eclipsing their highest Premier League finish of 15th.
Beating their best top-flight finish of 13th in 1981-82 would also have not been out of the question, albeit their final two matches see them face Manchester City and Arsenal.
But conceding just 195 seconds after Welbeck’s effort, coupled with their failure to turn half chances into goals, makes it much more unlikely.
Graham Potter’s side play with admirable composure passing out from the back, but that appears to disappear almost as soon as they arrive in the final third.
The Seagulls failed to muster a shot on target until the 53rd minute, and even then Steven Alzate’s effort came from an improbable scoring position with Welbeck better placed to score.
That sparked a flurry of good moments for the hosts, with Jahanbakhsh and Alzate wastefully failing to make the most of them.
Hammers’ hopes fade
West Ham arrived on the south coast hoping to buoy their Champions League aspirations but there was a palpable sense of deflation among the visiting players at the final whistle, despite Benrahma’s superb curling effort.
One win from their past five Premier League games now looks sure to count against them in the final reckoning for the top four places.
And both Everton and Tottenham will fancy their chances of leapfrogging Moyes’ team into a Europa League berth.
While the Hammers welcomed Declan Rice back into their starting XI for the first time since 21 March, they simply did not do enough against a Brighton side who were without the suspended Lewis Dunk and Neal Maupay.
Late claims for a penalty appeared fanciful rather than convincing and a VAR review correctly found in Brighton’s favour after Jesse Lingard’s cross at close quarters looped onto Adam Webster’s arm from his hip.
Michail Antonio failed to register a single effort on target and at times they appeared to lack invention when presented with a blue wall of home defenders.
Lingard, who has shone since arriving on loan from Manchester United, had a quiet evening and the same could be said of Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen, with both struggling to ignite the visitors.
‘We can improve in both boxes’ – what they said
Brighton boss Graham Potter, speaking to BBC Sport: “It’s always a bit disappointing when you’re 1-0 up with not long to go [and you don’t win]. Over the course of the game a draw is a fair result – I wouldn’t say we deserved more. West Ham were better than us in first half, we were better in the second half.
“West Ham have a lot of good attacking players who can attack in different ways – they’re challenging for Europe for a reason. Our boys stuck at it and did well, it’s a good point in the end.
“You think you can hold on but we didn’t manage that situation well and they scored. That’s been a fault of ours over the season – too many winning positions dropped – and that’s something to improve.”
West Ham boss David Moyes speaking to Sky Sports: “I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t take more but when you go 1-0 down with six minutes left, it’s good to get a draw.
“I thought we played really well. In the final third it didn’t quite work. We brought Said Benrahma to get us goals and assists – it was good he got one tonight.
“I thought he [Declan Rice] did OK. Just OK for me because I know the standard he’s got and what a good player he is.”
On their Champions League hopes: “I thought our chances had gone. We’re trying to get a place in European football if we can, we’re still in a good place for that. It’s a great thing to say we’re in a good shout with two games to go.
“I said on Saturday when we lost to Everton we’d lost the opportunity [for top four].”
Brighton blues for Hammers
- West Ham have picked up 28 points on the road in the Premier League this campaign – their joint-best away points haul in a single campaign in the competition (also 2015-16).
- West Ham have faced Brighton more often (8) without ever winning than they have any other opponent in the Premier League (D5 L3).
- Brighton have dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League this season than any other side.
- Brighton’s Danny Welbeck, who scored his 50th Premier League goal, bagged his sixth goal of the 2020-21 campaign – his best tally in a top-flight season since 2013-14 (9).
- West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has been substituted off on more occasions than any other player in the Premier League this season (23).
Brighton are next in Premier League action when they host the champions Manchester City on Tuesday, 18 May (19:00 BST).
West Ham travel to already relegated West Brom in their next top-flight match on Wednesday, 19 May (20:15 BST).
Brighton & Hove Albion
West Ham United
- 17AlzateSubstituted forLallanaat 67′minutes
- 8BissoumaBooked at 18mins
- 16JahanbakhshSubstituted forTauat 73′minutes
- 11TrossardSubstituted forZeqiriat 83′minutes
- 10Mac Allister
- 20BowenSubstituted forBenrahmaat 64′minutes
- Andre Marriner
Match ends, Brighton and Hove Albion 1, West Ham United 1.
Second Half ends, Brighton and Hove Albion 1, West Ham United 1.
Attempt missed. Yves Bissouma (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Percy Tau.
Percy Tau (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham United).
Goal! Brighton and Hove Albion 1, West Ham United 1. Saïd Benrahma (West Ham United) right footed shot from outside the box to the top right corner.
Goal! Brighton and Hove Albion 1, West Ham United 0. Danny Welbeck (Brighton and Hove Albion) right footed shot from outside the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Percy Tau with a through ball.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Andi Zeqiri replaces Leandro Trossard.
Attempt missed. Craig Dawson (West Ham United) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Saïd Benrahma with a cross following a corner.
Corner, West Ham United. Conceded by Ben White.
Adam Webster (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Michail Antonio (West Ham United).
Foul by Michail Antonio (West Ham United).
Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Percy Tau replaces Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Hand ball by Saïd Benrahma (West Ham United).
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion. Adam Lallana replaces Steven Alzate.
Attempt blocked. Michail Antonio (West Ham United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Saïd Benrahma with a headed pass.
Substitution, West Ham United. Saïd Benrahma replaces Jarrod Bowen.
Attempt saved. Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.