There were a number of standout performances for West Ham United on Sunday as they narrowly lost 2-1 to runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.
The likes of Adrian, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell all received plaudits after the game for their parts in a battling display.
One man who also caught the eye was teenager Declan Rice, who was making his third league start of the season against Pep Guardiola’s supremely talented side.
Playing in a three-man central defence alongside Ogbonna and Cresswell, the 18-year-old stood up to the task of facing the most prolific attack in the division and for the majority of the match was successful in nullifying City’s numerous threats.
The only blot on his copybook was the hesitation that allowed David Silva to sneak in behind him and convert Kevin De Bruyne’s immaculate chipped pass for the home team’s winner.
That manager David Moyes chose to criticise Rice’s role in that goal after the game seemed harsh to many, but it is indicative of how highly he is rated by those at the London Stadium.
The Scot told Sky Sports after the final whistle that he expected the Irishman to head the ball away in that situation, but also took the time to praise his overall performance.
With Chelsea coming to town on Saturday lunchtime, Rice will be aiming to retain his place in the line-up and stake a claim for a more permanent inclusion.
On the evidence of last weekend, there is no reason why he should not be a key part of Moyes’ plans for the remainder of the campaign.
Composed under pressure and seemingly not fazed by the barrage of attacks City threw at him in the second half of Sunday’s encounter, Rice’s experience as a midfielder should stand him in good stead at the heart of the Hammers’ backline.
He is strong on the ball and has the ability to bring it out from the back, something that is perhaps lacking amongst his team-mates in that position.
The form of his fellow centre-backs also backs up his claims to a regular first-team place.
Winston Reid has started to look shaky this term, whilst Jose Fonte, the New Zealander’s regular partner, has failed to recapture the form that convinced Slaven Bilic to bring him in from Southampton in January.
A strong display against City notwithstanding, Ogbonna makes too many mistakes at the back and will likely be dropped once everyone is fit and firing.
There is a definite chance for Rice to establish himself and with an experienced campaigner by his side then he could mature into a fine centre-half.
Despite having only signed from Chelsea’s academy in 2014, the youngster is viewed by the Irons faithful very much as one of their own and as such will be afforded time to grow in the team.
West Ham have a history of producing talent from within and although that has stalled slightly in recent years, there is still a sense of excitement when a young player breaks into the senior setup.
Defence is an area that needs an injection of youth, with Fonte, James Collins and Pablo Zabaleta all well past their 30th birthdays and Reid and Ogbonna approaching that landmark.
Rice has shown that he has the temperament to cope in a pressure cooker environment and his age should be no barrier to senior opportunities.
West Ham have a promising player on their hands and he must be given the chance to thrive this season.