West Ham grab precious point thanks to Payet wonder goal
PUBLISHED: 17:12 01 October 2016 | UPDATED: 17:12 01 October 2016
PA/Press Association Images
The Hammers had to come from behind against Middlesbrough to salvage a point at the London Stadium
West Ham United 1 Middlesbrough 1
It may only have been a solitary point and West Ham United may still be languishing in the bottom three, but at least Slaven Bilić’s side have stopped the rot after four forlorn losses, with a hard-fought draw at the London Stadium.
Cristhian Stuani looked to have put the Hammers in a right stew when his 51st-minute header gave Boro the lead, but darting Dimitri Payet quickly levelled with a simply sensational solo goal to send the East End into ecstasy.
That wretched run of five Premier League defeats from their opening six games had left the Hammers in 18th-spot with just three points and during a black, bunged-up week for English football, Bilić’s boys had also come under the spotlight for a so-called team-bonding session that extended well into the small hours and, allegedly, beyond.
Following Sunday’s 3-0 reverse at the hands of Southampton, West Ham were back at London Stadium, where the Hammers boss made four changes as James Collins, Sam Byram, Gökhan Töre and Pedro Obiang came in for injured Havard Nordtveit plus substitutes Manuel Lanzini, Alvaro Arbeloa and Simone Zaza.
But Arbeloa was not on the bench for too long given the Spaniard was called from the dug-out on just seven minutes after Sam Byram was driven away on a stretcher after falling awkwardly on the halfway line, while Obiang was also in the thick of things, too, collecting an early caution for a lunge on the escaping George Friend.
Boro, kicking off two places and two points above the Hammers, had also made four switches from the side that had lost to Everton last weekend with Stuani, Jordan Rhodes, Viktor Fischer and Calum Chambers each called into the fold by Aitor Karanka.
Indeed, it was Fischer, who went closest to opening the scoring with a low, angled 15-yarder that flew beyond the base of Adrián’s far post, while at the other end, the pressing Payet was blocked by Victor Valdés ahead of curling a 20-yarder around the Spanish stopper’s left-hand post.
And with the Hammers looking more threatening, central striker Michail Antonio headed wide before Collins also nodded over the top.
Midway through the half, former Hammer Stewart Downing crossed into the area, where Rhodes headed harmlessly wide but, as the half drew to a close, the home defence had Collins to thank for a trademark series of brave, no-nonsense headed clearances.
Skipper Mark Noble also let fly with a low 25-yarder that just pitched on the wrong side of Valdés’ left-hand upright and then Töre’s effort from closer range looped high in the lower tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand as the Hammers legend looked on aghast from the Directors’ Box.
With seconds of the opening period remaining, Noble cured a beautiful 20-yarder onto Valdés crossbar but the ball bounced to safety and then Töre again sent another wayward effort into the disgusted West Ham supporters still waiting to see either keeper make a first-half save in a goalless 45 minutes.
Not surprisingly, with Bilić having got no delight from the Turkish international, Töre was withdrawn at the break as Zaza lined up for the restart and, shortly afterwards, Antonio finally gave Valdés some work to do, albeit the Spaniard easily fielded his 20-yarder.
On 51 minutes, compatriot Adrián was also called into action, when the breaking Rhodes fired an angled effort onto his ankles but with the ball cannoning away from the near post for a corner, the danger still was not over.
For when Fischer floated the left-wing corner into the area, Stuani outjumped Antonio and, although Arbeloa desperately tried to hook the downward header clear, goal-line technology proved that the Uruguayan’s effort had, indeed, broken the deadlock.
That was a bitter blow for the Hammers but that man Payet soon ensured that they were back on level terms within five minutes thanks to another mesmerising Gallic goal.
Collecting the ball on the left-hand touchline, midway inside the Boro half, the flying Frenchman turned Antonio Barragán before making his way infield where he glided past Marten de Roon, Chambers and, finally, Ben Gibson before slotting a low eight-yarder past the wrong-footed Valdés.
London Stadium erupted in adulation as the claret and blue element saluted that moment of individual brilliance and it was not long before the pirouetting Payet was gliding upfield once more but this time de Roon upended him at the expense of a booking.
And when the Frenchman’s consequent free-kick rebounded off the wall to Arbeloa, the former Real Madrid man was not far away with an 18-yarder that ex-Barça ‘keeper Valdés was relieved to see fly inches wide.
Neither Zaza nor Antonio troubled the visitors with wayward 25-yarders that cleared the covered running track, while substitutes Gastón Ramirez and Manuel Lanzini curled wide for either side in the closing stages but in the final reckoning the contest was destined to end all-square.
HAMMERS: Adrián, Byram (Arbeloa 7), Ogbonna, Reid, Collins, Kouyaté, Obiang, Noble (Lanzini 72), Payet, Töre (Zaza h/t), Antonio. Unused subs: Randolph, Feghouli, Fletcher, Fernandes.
BORO: Valdés, Barragán, Friend, Chambers, Gibson, Stuani, Fischer (Ramirez 59), de Roon, Forshaw, Downing, Rhodes (Negredo 67). Unused subs: Guzan, Ayala, Espinosa, Clayton, Traoré.
Bookings: Obiang (11), de Roon (62), Stuani (79), Barragán (88), Arbeloa (90+3).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.