West Ham United 3-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
TROUBLED West Ham United were hit by a hugely controversial VAR call allowing Brighton & Hove Albion to claw back a two-goal deficit to claim a share of the spoils from a dramatic Premier League relegation dogfight at the London Stadium.
Despite their troubles, the Hammers did excellent business ahead of the transfer deadline, bringing in the powerful Czech midfielder, Tomas Soucek along with highly-rated goalscoring winger, Jarrod Bowen – bolstering the east Londoners survival hopes.
“We know we’ll have to play very well and be at our best. We’ve showed good signs in some games that we’re improving. Overall, the players have been really committed and determined to get it right and hopefully, we can do it this weekend.”
On visitors, Brighton, the Hammers chief added: “They’re not on the best run. We have the home advantage and we have to try and capitalise on that.”
Bowen’s arrival came too late, however, Soucek was immediately introduced to Moyes’s starting line-up along with the returning Ryan Fredericks and Michail Antonio.
In the great relegation scheme of things, this was a huge contest. Aaron Mooy and Antonio each nodded early opportunities wide during a frantic opening, while Seagulls stopper, Matthew Ryan denied Soucek a swift debut goal, turning aside his thumping goalbound header from Mark Noble’s pinpoint delivery.
Antonio again glanced off target as the home side continued to create from wide areas. Meanwhile, Lukasz Fabianski stuck out a glove to deny the advancing Leandro Trossard as the Seagulls looked to profit from a lightning break.
Nevertheless, there was an anxiety about West Ham’s play – particularly in the final third – suggesting Bowen’s inclusion can’t come quick enough. But shortly before the half-hour mark, an unlikely source lifted the tension. Issa Diop arrived to meet a delightful dead-ball from Robert Snodgrass – prodding beyond the stranded Ryan and low into the net.
With the shackles off, West Ham began to attack with a little more freedom. Antonio found both Martin Montoya and Ryan in his way after firing goalwards. But the home side had the bit between their teeth – Snodgrass’s deflected volley deceived Ryan and the Hammers were two up on the stroke of half-time.
But Brighton were back in it immediately after the restart in bizarre circumstances. Fabianski’s punch from a Pascal Gross flag-kick rebounded off Angelo Ogbonna and into the net – an unlikely lifeline for the Seagulls.
However, any West Ham nerves were swiftly dispelled. Snodgrass’s thumping volley – aided by another deflection, this time by Bernado – Ryan with no chance as the Hammers third of the afternoon fizzed into the Seagulls net.
Antonio drove an angled attempt directly into Ryan’s midriff as his quest for the goal his performance deserved continued. Meanwhile, Fabianski expertly saved from Seagulls substitute, Solly March, as the visitors probed.
The anxiety returned to those of a claret and blues persuasion. Gross profit from a woefully short back-header from Diop before poking past Fabianski to reduce the arrears again.
Then a moment of pure controversy. Glenn Murray fired low past Fabianski and raced away in celebration, despite referee, Michael Oliver, disallowing the effort for an apparent handball from the Seagulls frontman. However, VAR intervened – the crowd held their collective breath – the goal was given!
Brighton were now very much in the ascendancy. Fabianski brilliantly tipped over a dipping free-kick from March, while the home side – clearly stunned – were pushed further and further back.
The point, as important as it could turn out to be, was insufficient to stop West Ham from slipping into the bottom three. And with daunting games against Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal just over the horizon, it is difficult to see any upward movement anytime soon.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Sunday, February 9 when they face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium (4:30pm).
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Aaron Cresswell Robert Snodgrass (Manuel Lanzini 85’), Mark Noble (Capt), Angelo Ogbonna, Sebastien Haller, Issa Diop, Ryan Fredericks, Tomas Soucek (Pablo Fornals 85’), Michail Antonio (Arthur Masuaku 74’), Declan Rice Subs not used: Darren Randolph (GK), Fabian Balbuena, Pablo Zabaleta, Albian Ajeti
Booked: Angelo Ogbonna (foul)
Goals: Issa Diop 29’, Robert Snodgrass 45’, 57’
Brighton & Hove Albion: Matthew Ryan, Lewis Dunk (Capt), Dale Stephens, Leandro Trossard, Pascal Gross, Adam Webster, Glenn Murray, Aaron Mooy (Solly March 72’), Martin Montoya (Ezequiel Schelotto 72’), Davy Propper, Bernardo Subs not used: David Button (GK), Neal Maupay, Alireza Jahanbakhsk, Aaron Connolly, Steven Alzate
Booked: Dale Stephens (foul)
Goals: Angelo Ogbonna (own-goal) 46’, Pascal Gross 75’, Glenn Murray 80’
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Michael Salisbury
Reaction to follow…