West Ham battle to vital victory over Watford
PUBLISHED: 17:04 10 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:04 10 February 2018
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Goals from Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic sting the Hornets at the London Stadium
West Ham United 2 Watford 0
How times have changed down West Ham way, where goals by Javier Hernández and Marko Arnautović gave the Hammers three precious points in their quest for Premier League safety.
Back in November, David Moyes’ first game in charge had seen Watford out-play, out-think and out-class woeful West Ham United in a 2-0 win at Vicarage Road.
But 19 games on, the Hammers boss saw his re-invented, re-galvanised and resurgent team exact their revenge as they stung the Hornets by the same score-line at the London Stadium.
Following his side’s first Premier League defeat of 2018 at Brighton & Hove Albion last Saturday, Moyes made two changes to his 12th-placed side as fit-again striker Arnautović and left wing-back Michail Antonio returned in place of substitutes Declan Rice and Sam Byram, who found themselves on the bench alongside midweek acquisition, Patrice Evra.
But despite having two of his most offensive players back on duty, the Hammers manager soon saw his team under early threat as Etienne Capoue’s early 20-yarder ricocheted off Angelo Ogbonna.
And when Gerard Deulofeu floated over the first corner of the afternoon, Adrián had to be at his brilliant best to beat away Adrian Mariappa’s point-blank corner, before racing out of his area to clear as the confident Hornets buzzed forward, once more.
Indeed, Watford’s stunning 4-1 victory over Chelsea on Monday evening was their first league win of 2018 and that saw them kick-off in 11th spot, one place and three points above West Ham as Javi Gracia predictably named an unchanged team for his fourth game in charge of the Hornets.
On 10 minutes, however, it was the hosts turn to threaten as Arnautović glided past three defenders and, although he was foiled by his fourth challenger, the ball broke to João Mário, whose angled effort was deflected behind for a home corner.
At the other end, Adrián found himself out of his area clearing from the onrushing Richarlison and, when Capoue then released the striker with a pin-point pass, the young Brazilian carelessly mis-controlled the ball.
Just after the half-hour mark, West Ham thought they had broken the deadlock, when Hernández nodded in Mário’s right-wing free-kick but the Mexican’s joy was quickly cut short by the sight of a borderline offside flag. His moment would, however, come a little later.
Meanwhile, as the game flowed from end-to-end, Adrián held at the second attempt after Capoue sent a low 25-yarder skidding across the London Stadium turf, before another Mario free-kick was nodded across goal by James Collins but the well-placed Orestis Karnezis somehow held the stretching Arnautović’s close-range shot.
But moments later, it was all Greek to the Athens-born Watford ‘keeper, who found himself picking the ball out of the net on 37 minutes, when Antonio accelerated past Daryl Janmaat down the right before whipping a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, where Hernández – no offside flag this time around - outmuscled Marvin Zeegelaar to give the Hammers an interval lead with a downward header.
Early in the second half, Gracia sent on Roberto Pereyra in place of Zeegelaar and, with the Argentinian substitute still finding his feet, Deulofeu let fly with a 25-yard free-kick that Spanish compatriot Adrián clawed away at full-stretch to the disbelief of the former Barcelona midfielder.
With 20 minutes remaining, Hernández had a great chance to double West Ham’s lead, when he was sent clear by Pablo Zabaleta but with the Mexican caught in two minds as to shoot or square to the supporting Arnautović, the helplessly exposed Karnezis bravely dived low into the Mexican’s studs to gather.
Moments later, Hernández found himself bursting clear once more but this time the angle was tighter and the Watford ‘keeper was able to divert striker’s low, angled shot to safety.
But 13 minutes from time, Cresswell’s persistence finally saw West Ham put yet more East End twilight between themselves and Watford as they conjured up a decisive and scrappy second goal.
The England left-back collected his short corner back from Antonio before unleashing a tightly-angled shot that Karnezis parried and, although, substitute Dodi Lukebakio tried to clear, his effort ricocheted back into the six-yard box off the Hammers defender and Arnautović accepted the simplest of tap-ins to cement a valuable victory for Moyes’ boys.
HAMMERS: Adrián, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Noble, Kouyaté, Mário (Byram 76), Arnautović (Rice 83), Antonio, Hernández (Hugill 87). Unused subs: Hart, Fonte, Evra, Cullen.
HORNETS: Karnezis, Mariappa, Prödl, Holebas, Janmaat, Capoue, Doucouré, Zeegelaar (Pereyra 55), Deulofeu (Lukebakio 74), Richarlison (Gray 82), Deeney. Unused subs: Bachmann, Ndong, Carrillo, Mukena.
Booked: Zabaleta (44), Prödl (90).
Referee: Graham Scott.