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West Ham relying on Jesse Lingard’s mentality as well as goals in Champions League fight

It seems West Ham are intent on doing it the hard way in their bid to qualify for the Champions League.

For the second game running, the Hammers raced into a 3-0 lead, only to concede two goals and then have to stave off a dramatic late fightback from their opponents.

But, after holding on to beat Leicester, West Ham remain on course for a top-four finish.

This victory was inspired by another brilliant display from Jesse Lingard, who continued his blistering form since joining on loan from Manchester United. On Sunday, he took another step towards securing his place in the England squad for the Euros this summer.

Lingard scored twice, taking his tally to eight goals in nine games for West Ham, as they moved one point behind third-placed Leicester.

While injuries have stretched the squad to breaking point and there are concerns over their defensive frailties, West Ham will fancy their chances of finishing in a Champions League spot with Lingard in this kind of form.

“I didn’t realise Messi was born in Warrington,” tweeted West Ham defender Arthur Masuaku after the game.

Even manager David Moyes would have to concede that Lingard is not quite on the same level as Messi, but he knows just how important the on-loan midfielder has been for his side.

“Jesse is getting the goals, he’s in a really good place and position to score,” said the Scot. “Without Mickey Antonio (who was out injured), we needed someone to stand up and get the goals, Jesse’s confidence is so good. He is helping the team and taking us along — and I hope he is enjoying it as well.”

England manager Gareth Southgate, who was at the London Stadium on Sunday, said Lingard was fortunate to make his squad last month, but the 28-year-old now looks a good bet to be selected this summer.

James Maddison was one of the players vying with Lingard for a spot in the England squad, but he was absent from the Leicester team after breaching Covid regulations – and that indiscretion could end his hopes of a recall from Southgate.

Lingard did fade as Leicester hit back late on, but Moyes was never going to take off his new talisman. Despite his lessening influence on the game, Lingard’s experience and composure in the dying moments were key, especially in the absence of the injured Mark Noble, Declan Rice and Angelo Ogbonna.

His goals have been vital for West Ham, but his mentality will also be crucial across the final seven games.

“That is the thing I am looking to,” said Moyes. “Vladimir [Coufal] and Tomas [Soucek] have played in a winning team (Slavia Prague) for most of their careers in the Czech Republic. Jesse has played for Manchester United for many years challenging at the top of the League.

“I am hoping the experience these boys have got will help us. It is a completely new place for us to be in, but it is a really good place to be in and we’re enjoying it.”

Whether West Ham can keep Lingard beyond this season is a question that Moyes will tackle at a later date.

For now, he is just happy to have him fit, firing and leading West Ham in their pursuit of history.

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