West Ham make it back-to-back with the unlikeliest of heroes
PUBLISHED: 14:30 05 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:35 05 December 2018
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Perez double sinks Cardiff City as Pellegrini looks for three in a row
When forgotten man Lucas Perez came on in the 40th minute on Tuesday night there were a few boos around the ground to greet his arrival.
The disappointment of losing Marko Arnautovic through injury was compounded by the fact that Andy Carroll had been overlooked to come on.
But by the end of this match, West Ham had secured another three points, managed back-to-back wins for the first time since January 2017 and Perez was the hero.
His career thus far at the London Stadium had been patchy to say the least, but manager Manuel Pellegrini had faith in him being a goalscorer and in five second-half minutes, he struck a deadly double to put this game to bed.
The boss was delighted for him, saying: “I’m very happy for Lucas because he is a player who arrived with me at West Ham and for whatever reason he hasn’t had too many chances.
“The most important thing is the player takes the chance when they have it and he did very well.”
It could have been a very different story in the first half as Cardiff City slowly worked their way into the game.
West Ham’s frustration manifested itself when Arnautovic barged into Junior Hoilett to concede a penalty, while Issa Diop’s clumsy challenge resulted in a free kick just outside the box.
But keeper Lukasz Fabianski saved superbly from both, with the penalty clutch from Joe Ralls’ spot-kick being particularly impressive.
A goal there, on the stroke of half time, would have put a different complexion on things and who knows if West Ham would have been able to get back into the match.
“You never know what might have happened had that penalty gone in,” added Pellegrini.
“We would have been losing 1-0 and the away team could have finished the first half in front when they didn’t have a shot on our goal before then.”
Cardiff started the second half pretty well too, but it was the first goal that was vital and West Ham got it.
The contribution of Robert Snodgrass on the night cannot be underestimated.
His clever lift into the box allowed Perez to open the scoring, while it was his corner that allowed Michail Antonio to head home the third goal.
In between, Arthur Masuaku set up Perez for a thumping finish as West Ham overcame what had looked like being a bad day at the office.
“I was pleased to see that the team wasn’t nervous when we didn’t score in the first half,” said Pellegrini.
“Sometimes in that situation you can start to play faster than you need in the second half, but we were calm, we tried to continue believing in what we do every day and that was the reason why we scored the goals.”
Back-to-back wins is never easy and we saw that on Tuesday.
Pellegrini had to change three of his four defenders from Saturday and also lost his star striker in the first half.
But it is clear that a Slaven Bilic side or indeed a David Moyes side would have probably drawn this match.
Pellegrini has built a decent squad here and when you have the likes of Andy Carroll, Grady Diangana and yes, even Lucas Perez coming off the bench to great effect, things are on the up.
Bring on Crystal Palace and maybe a nine-point week.