fter Said Benrahma had sent his decisive spot-kick through the fingertips of Zack Steffen, and as the London Stadium celebrated, inevitably, to the tune of Sweet Caroline, an emotional-looking Mark Noble strolled round the edge of the pitch and tried to take it all in.
The 34-year-old has seen plenty of momentous nights in the claret and blue he so dearly loves but as he enters the final chapter of a one-club career, each one – and they seem to be a weekly occurrence at the moment – must mean that little bit more.
Rarely can he, or anyone, have seen the London Stadium quite like this, a not-so-long-ago unwanted home sold-out for a midweek Carabao Cup tie under the lights as David Moyes’ side, thanks to a penalty shootout triumph, knocked Manchester City out of a competition they had won for four years in a row.
“For everyone all round, it was a fantastic night,” Noble said. “After beating Spurs at the weekend and knowing we had to play this game against Man City, who haven’t lost a Carabao Cup tie in five years!
“To be able to give [the fans] a special moment in the club’s history, which is what we’re doing at the minute, it’s a good time to be a West Ham fan.”
Moyes’ men were heavily indebted to the excellent Alphonse Areola and outstanding Ben Johnson for making it as far as the shootout as City, while lacking their usual incision, dominated possession and territory, though Tomas Soucek spurned two golden chances at the other end as normal time ended 0-0.
Noble’s last penalty had been ill-advised and poorly-taken, the skipper denied after being sent on to try and rescue a point against Manchester United in the Premier League with his first touch of the game.
Here though, there was little doubt about his suitability to step up and lead from the front as he lifted home the first spot-kick of the shootout before Phil Foden followed by missing City’s opener, an error that would ultimately prove decisive.
“The Gaffer said ‘Nobes, you’re first’, but I was taking the first one anyway, if I’m honest!” he told West Ham TV.
“To score a penalty and win a shootout, not just for me, but for my wife and kids and family who went through the pain with me after the last one, was pretty special.”
So much of the narrative around Noble’s final season has focused on his pride at leading the club on their European tour. But now, in a competition that looks eminently more winnable for City’s rare absence from its business end, he must be dreaming of a stop-off at Wembley along the way.