Hammers bounce back to take three points against Watford

West Ham made amends for their second half horror show on the Sussex coast last weekend as they beat Watford in this crunch league clash at the London Stadium. The win, secured due to goals from Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic was the Hammers’ first home one over an opponent above them in the league standings since their famous triumph over Antonio Conte’s Chelsea earlier in the season.

Hammers boss David Moyes made two personnel (and several positional) changes from the side that had lost to Brighton. In came the talismanic Marko Arnautovic, sporting a new hairdo, and the pacy Michail Antonio and out went youngsters Declan Rice and Sam Byram.

Arnie Watford

Antonio was given an unfamiliar starting position at left wingback, a move that restored Cresswell to his spot on the left side of a back three. Arnautovic’s introduction saw Cheikhou Kouyate move back into midfield, veteran Pablo Zabaleta from the centre of the park to his more favoured right back position at the expense of Byram, and Joao Mario to a more right sided attacking position in support of the Austrian and Hernandez. New signing Patrice Evra, without top flight football since November, was on the bench.

Watford, fresh from a stunning 4-1 win over Chelsea on Monday night, opted for an unchanged XI, with the subs remaining the same as well. That meant Karnezis in goal and Richarlison and Deulofeu to support Troy Deeney upfront.

The first major chance of the game went the visitors’ way, with Adrian Mariappa nearly breaking a four and a half year goal drought with a header at the near post. However West Ham’s Spanish keeper Adrian was able to palm it away, and from then on, it was the home side who took control of the first half.

First Arnautovic showed what West Ham had been missing as he danced past several Watford players before being brought down in the box. The ref waved off his penalty claims, but pundit Dermot Gallagher later mentioned on television that it should have been a spot kick to the Hammers.

Then from Joao Mario’s free kick, Hernandez headed home, but the goal was disallowed for offside. Another Mario set piece saw Collins head the ball into Arnautovic’s path, but the Austrian’s effort from point blank range was saved by Karnezis.

At the other end, Capoue’s shot from distance stung Adrian’s fingers, but Watford were looking shaky and the goal West Ham were threatening to score eventually came in the 38th minute. Antonio beat Daryl Janmaat, one of the heroes of Watford’s win over Chelsea, easily with his pace on the left flank and his cross was nodded in by Hernandez- the Mexican’s third goal in as many games. Watford felt Marvin Zeegelaar had been fouled before Hernandez’s header, but the officials allowed the goal to stand.

Hernandez Watford

Watford pressed hard for an equaliser in the second half, with Deulofeu’s free kick excellently saved by Adrian. West Ham put the game beyond reach, with Holebas’ attempted clearance ricocheting back off Cresswell into the path of the unmarked Arnautovic, who stabbed home from close range.

It was a pretty solid performance from West Ham- a major, major improvement from last weekend’s poor show at Brighton, and displays like this will only see the demand for tickets at the London Stadium go up, as a look at www.footballticketpad.com will tell you.

The Hornets bossed possession, ending with up almost two-thirds of it, but had nothing to show for their efforts. They were perhaps tired from their exploits over Chelsea- West Ham’s players had looked fatigued in the second half against Brighton, and it was Watford’s turn this afternoon, with several of their stars looking short of their best. With injuries galore, the Hornets have used 29 players already this season- the second most in the league.

The result sees West Ham go level on points with Watford in the league standings. Both teams will now have a much deserved fortnight’s break before West Ham travel to Anfield and Watford host Sam Allardyce’s Everton at home.

West Ham 2-0 Watford (Hernandez 38, Arnautovic 78)

West Ham Starting XI: Adrian, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Kouyate, Noble, Antonio, Arnautovic, Joao Mario, Hernandez

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