Bowen’s bullseye sinks Hornets

West Ham United v Watford – Premier League – London Stadium – Report

West Ham United 1-0 Watford

Jarrod Bowen grabbed his ninth Premier League goal of the season as West Ham United, albeit unconvincingly, returned to winning ways against a dogged Watford side at the London Stadium.

Successive league defeats, somewhat lucky to prevail in the FA Cup, a frustrating transfer window and a cat story that left just about everyone shaking their heads in disbelief. It’s been far from plain sailing for David Moyes of late.

The Scotsman focused on football: “I think we’re needing another rocket to go and get in shape a little bit.

“We need to get back to the high standards now. That is the demand I am putting on the players. We’ve got quite a few players who have shown really good levels and maybe not quite reached that probably since the November international break. That was where I would say, when we came back, we’ve been a little bit up and down since then.

“We could do with getting to a consistent level and consistent standards of our form. It is not that I think our results have been bad, it’s just that some of the players have played really well and some have played really poorly by their standards. So, we’re trying to get three or four of them back to those high levels.”

Despite widespread condemnation towards Kurt Zouma after video images emerged of the defender hitting and kicking a pet cat, the former Chelsea defender was named in the Hammers starting line-up.

The club insisted that the incident would be dealt with internally. Meanwhile, Zouma issued a statement, explaining: “I want to apologise for my actions. There are no excuses for my behaviour, which I sincerely regret.”

Nevertheless, the Frenchman received a frosty reception, particularly from the visiting Hornets fans, hoping to see their side win a league match for the first time since November.

West Ham had plenty more to concern themselves. Back-to-back league defeats and unconvincing at non-league Kidderminster in the FA Cup. Hopes rested on the returning Michail Antonio, one of seven changes the Moyes’ line-up.

But it was Watford who should have opened the scoring. Juraj Kucka heading wide of the target from close range after Moussa Sissoko had picked him out from the left. 

It was an uncomfortable start from the home side. Sissoko drove the wrong side of an upright as the East Londoners found themselves short of space, harried into mistakes and passes going astray. An air of nervousness took hold of the home crowd. 

Tomas Soucek was unable to direct his header goalward after Bowen had fashioned an opening. Meanwhile, Said Benrahma found Ben Foster in sparkling form when played in by Bowen, then saw the rebound come back off a post as the Hammers began to find their feet during an otherwise turgid opening half.

Benrahma blazed over following a game of ‘head tennis’ – But the second period had taken on a similar mantle with Watford ridged and regimental, West Ham unadventurous and fresh out of ideas. 

Moyes hoped Manuel Lanzini might provide some spark. The Argentine was thrown on in place of Benrahma. And with their next meaningful foray forward, the hosts – aided by a stroke of fortune – snatched the lead.

Bowen drove forward before firing from distance. The subsequent deflection off Samir wrong-footed Foster and spun low into the net. 

Jarrod Bowen’s second-half strike ensured West Ham United all three points against Watford at the London Stadium (Rob Newell CameraSport)

Tom Cleverley forced a tremendous flying save from Lukasz Fabianski as Watford – a little unlucky to be behind – looked to claw their way back into the contest. Indeed, a triple-change from boss, Roy Hodgson, signalled the Hornets intentions. Jeremy Ngakia, Imran Louza and Joao Pedro were the men charged with raising a salvage operation.

West Ham went close in the final stages. Bowen skipped in from the left before fizzing an effort against the post, while Antonio fluffed his lines after the former Hull City man and Lanzini had fashioned an opening.

West Ham United return to Premier League action on Sunday, February 13 when they face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium (4:30pm).

West Ham United: Fabiański; Coufal, Zouma, Dawson, Cresswell; Rice (Capt), Souček, Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma (Lanzini 60′) Antonio Subs not used: Areola (GK), Diop, Fredericks, Johnson, Kral, Noble, Vlašić, Yarmolenko

Booked: Vladimir Coufal (dissent)

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 68′

Watford: Foster; Feminía (Ngakia 78′), Cathcart, Samir, Kamara, Sissoko (Capt), Kayembe (Louza 78′), Kucka, Cleverley (Pedro 78′), Dennis, King Subs not used: Bachmann (GK), Kabasele, Kalu, Masina, Sema, Hernandez

Booked: None

Goals: None

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Assistants: Lee Betts and Richard West

Fourth Official: Simon Hooper

VAR: Paul Tierney

Assistant VAR: James Mainwaring

Attendance: 59,581

Brian Jeeves