West Ham’s Rice return to relegation battle after England cheer

After helping England to a pair of Euro 2024 qualifying wins, West Ham United captain Declan Rice returns to the Premier League relegation battle this weekend.

David Moyes’ men welcome Southampton’s cellar boys to the London Stadium on Sunday (2pm), sitting themselves in the relegation zone but only four points clear between the bottom nine teams.

The Hammers have games available against all their rivals and will entertain fifth-placed Newcastle United next Wednesday (April 5).

And Rice was one of 10 veteran players absent on international duty, opening the scoring for Gareth Southgate’s England against Italy in Naples with his third goal for his country.

The 24-year-old reacted quickest in the box to shoot with his left foot when Harry Kane blocked the shot, then saw the Tottenham striker convert from the penalty spot just before half-time to become the All-Time top scorer. England with 54.

“Every time you score it’s a proud moment, let alone when you’re doing it for your country,” Rice told Channel 4 Sport.

“I think I was surprised when I dropped it, but I just wanted to make good contact with the ball. I think I scratched it, but he came in and everyone counts.

“I was absolutely thrilled to get that goal and for Harry to score afterwards, capped off a great first half performance. We really dominate and show what it’s about and the next step is to apply that throughout the 90 minutes.”

Italy struck back after the restart through debutant Mateo Retegui after a Harry Maguire mistake, but were unable to make their extra man count after Luke Shaw was sent off in the 80th minute, following two yellow cards in quick succession. .

“It was a story of two halves,” Rice added. “We completely controlled and dominated the game in the first half and we could have been three goals up.

“In the second half, we put ourselves under all kinds of pressure from the beginning. But we showed all kinds of desire and the necessary mentality to dig in after being down to 10 men.

“It’s our first victory in Italy in a long time (since 1961), so it was a great night for us.

“Harry said a few words in the dressing room after the game and you can see how much (the goalscoring record) means to him.

“Every day since I walked in the door with England, the way he approaches training and scores goals in training and games, he’s a real leader for us.

“To reach 54 goals is a statement and he could reach 100 if he wanted to. He is a top player and he deserves it.”

Rice, who was booked against the Italians, won his 41st game and played another full 90 minutes, his 46th game of the season, as England beat Ukraine 2-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Kane opened the scoring from close range, with Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka adding a superb second moments later to put England top of Group C ahead of June matches against Malta and North Macedonia.

But Rice and West Ham face another 12 Premier League games before then, with the club’s survival in the top flight at stake.


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