Hornets deservedly win to add to Hammers’ woes
Watford got back on track after three successive defeats as some impressive attacking football was deservedly rewarded with a 2-0 victory over troubled West Ham United.
The Hornets took the lead with their first attack of note when Will Hughes swept home his first goal for the club, but despite going on to play some eye-catching attacking football at times in the first half they were unable to score a second.
And West Ham would have been level at half-time had it not been for the heroics of Heurelho Gomes, who did superbly to thwart Cheikhou Kouyate before pulling off an incredible double save from Marko Arnautovic.
Kouyate was to miss another good chance after the restart but then Watford produce a prolonged spell of very good attacking football that was deservedly rewarded with a second goal; Richarlison applying the finish after being released by the highly impressive Hughes.
With the West Ham fans repeatedly chanting against the club’s owners as they headed towards another defeat, the visitors only occasionally threatened thereafter, although Christian Kabasele was forced to clear a Manuel Lanzini shot off the line.
Any fears the Hornets’ performance would be adversely affected by the ongoing talk surrounded by Marco Silva had long since been put to bed, and the head coach was to join his players on the pitch at full-time to applaud the fans.
Silva made two changes from the team that surrendered a two-goal lead to lose at Everton last time out and switched to what looked to be a 3-4-2-1 formation pre-game.
There was a surprising debut for Marvin Zegelaar and Adrian Mariappa returned to the starting XI as Jose Holebas and – fresh from helping Peru qualify for the World Cup – Andre Carrillo dropped to a bench that also included the fit-again Sebastian Prodl and Roberto Pereyra.
David Moyes made three changes from what proved to be Slaven Bilic’s final team selection as Hammers boss for the 4-1 defeat against Liverpool, two of which were enforced.
Strikers Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew missed out through injury and illness respectively, while Edimilson Fernandes dropped to the bench. Their places were taken by Pablo Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Andy Carroll.
Zeegelaar was to suffer a very painful introduction to the Premier League as, within 10 seconds of the game getting underway, he was caught full in the face by a stray Carroll elbow. After a couple of minute’s treatment, the Dutchman was back on his feet but was still receiving attention off the pitch before he was able to rejoin the fray.
Kabasele was the next to feel the sharp end of a Carroll elbow, on this occasion to the chest after an accidental clash with the Irons striker as a somewhat stop-start opening to the game continued.
The Hornets were shading the early exchanges though, and their efforts were to be rewarded in the 11th minute.
Zeegelaar started the business end of the move off with a ball down the left to Richarlison, who initially shaped to take on Zabaleta before laying the ball back to the left wing-back. He stood up a cross to the back post where Hughes was beaten in the air, but Andre Gray turned impressively on the loose ball only to mishit his shot, inadvertently setting up Hughes and the former Derby County man swept the ball past Joe Hart to net his first goal in Hornets colours.
The hosts continued to look threatening against a West Ham side less than convincing at the back, with Hughes catching the eye with his passing and probing and Zeegelaar was also having a productive introduction to the English top flight.
Carroll was the first player to be booked when, having been dispossessed by Richarlison, he let frustration get the better of him and bundled the Brazilian over off the ball. But the card count was quickly levelled by Miguel Britos for scything down Kouyate.
Despite their superiority, Watford had been unable to fashion another clear opening since taking the lead but that changed in the 33rd minute when Richarlison and Gray linked up impressively on the left side of the area and Hart had to dive to his right to keep out the former’s shot. The ball ran loose in the area though, and Kiko Femenia ran onto it to hit a first-time shot narrowly wide of the far post.
Arnautovic was the next player to be cautioned after going through a challenge and painfully catching Tom Cleverley on his foot. And two West Ham yellow cards were soon to become three when Pedro Obiang went through the back of Hughes.
Gomes had not had a great deal to concern him in the first half, but in the 42nd minute he made a superb goal-saving stop, diving at the feet of Kouyate to divert the ball narrowly wide after the Hornets defence had been opened up for the first time in the game, with Mark Noble playing the incisive pass.
Watford’s response was to spring a counter-attack, but an over-hit ball to Femenia saw some of the momentum lost. Even so, the Spaniard was still able to get in a cross which Hughes acrobatically volleyed over the top.
The Hornets deserved to be leading at the break, but they came very close to being pegged back in injury time. The reason they were not was down to the brilliance of Gomes.
The danger originated from Zabaleta’s cross from the right which was met by the head of Arnautovic, whose downward effort was deflected off Kabasele, but the Watford keeper performed heroics to not only keep that out, but excelled once again to save the Austrian international’s follow-up one handed.
The visitors, unsurprisingly, started the second half positively, but it was their opponents who had the first chance when Gray stabbed over Femenia’s low centre at the near post.
Watford were to survive another let off in the 52nd minute though, when Noble’s ball in behind from the right had Britos in trouble as Arnautovic got goal-side of him on the right side of the penalty area and his pull-back fell ideally for Kouyate, but the midfielder blazed his first-time effort horribly over.
But following that scare, the Hornets were a foot or so wide from scoring a second when Femenia and Hughes combined to set up Abdoulaye Doucoure on the edge of the area, and his first-time effort went narrowly wide of the far post with Hart a spectator.
Hughes saw a shot deflected through to the West Ham stopper moments later as the home side continued to push on and then Gray saw a curler destined for the far corner deflected narrowly wide.
Hughes took that corner from the right and when he was given a second chance to play the ball in, it was Hart’s turn to excel as he plunged to his right to keep out Mariappa’s downward header.
But ten minutes or so of excellent attacking football was to get a thoroughly deserved reward in the 65th minute when Hughes, with a slight suspicion of handball as he controlled the ball, played a delicious pass through to Richarlison, who took a couple of touches as he advanced into the area before firing past Hart to make it 2-0.
Moyes had already been readying a change and the substitution was made play restarted, with Carroll making way for Diafra Sakho.
Things got even worse for the Hammers when Arnautovic lost out in a challenge with Kabasele and was left writhing in agony on the ground, clutching his right wrist.
The former Stoke City man was able to walk off the pitch when he was replaced by Arthur Masuaku with 16 minutes of normal time remaining.
Following the lengthy stoppage in play, West Ham came close to pulling one back when a cross fell for Lanzini on the right side of the area, and his shot beat Gomes, but Kabasele had spotted the danger and got back to block on the line, although again it looked like the ball hit his hand before he cleared.
After Noble had been booked for a foul on Richarlison, Hughes was rightly afforded a standing ovation when he made way for Pereyra seven minutes from the end of normal time.
Femenia’s productive afternoon was to be ended by injury and he limped off to be replaced by Holebas, while Gray made way for Carrillo in the sixth of eight minutes of injury time.
In between times though, Richarlison wasn’t far away from doubling his tally when he curled a shot not too far wide of Hart’s far post as the home side ran out deserving victors.
Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia (Holebas 86), Doucoure, Cleverley, Zegelaar; Hughes (Pereyra 83), Richarlison; Gray (Carrillo 90). Subs not used: Karnezis, Prodl, Capoue, Okaka.
West Ham United: Hart; Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Obiang, Noble, Kouyate; Arnautovic (Masuaku 74), Carroll (Sakho 65), Lanzini. Subs not used: Adrian, Martinez, Fernandes, Quina, Rice.
Bookings: Carroll for a foul on Richarlison (27); Britos for a foul on Kouyate (30); Arnautovic for a foul on Cleverley (35); Obiang for a foul on Hughes (41); Noble for a foul on Richarlison (83) Attendance: 20,018 (2,100 away fans).
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Sourced from: Watford FC