Hammers finish a record year in style

Watford v West Ham United – Premier League – Vicarage Road – Report

Watford 1-4 West Ham United

West Ham United came from behind to emphatically see off struggling Watford and record their twenty-second Premier League victory of the calendar year.

Injuries and COVID concerns had hampered the build-up in both camps. Watford, having lost each of their last four league outings, returned to action following a three-match pandemic hiatus. Nevertheless, David Moyes – himself looking for a change of fortune following a four-match winless sequence – remained cautious. 

“Watford is always a tricky place to go to,” the Scotsman explained.

“Claudio Ranieri is an incredibly experienced manager. They had a really good uplift at the start, they’ve had one or two results, which haven’t gone quite the way they wanted, but they look as if they’re playing in a way to do everything they can to stay out of the bottom three.

“It’s never been an easy game at Watford and I don’t think this one will be easy either.”

But following on from Boxing Day’s disappointing defeat to Southampton, it was a torrid opening for the East Londoners. Joshua King teed up Emmanuel Dennis, who in turn, stepped inside Craig Dawson before leathering, left-footed high beyond Lukasz Fabianski – Watford ahead with the first genuine opportunity of the afternoon – The Nigerian claiming his eighth goal of the campaign.

Said Benrahma rattled the frame of the goal with a speculative strike from distance, while Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio ran into heavy traffic as the Hornets defended deeply.

But the home side were undone shortly before the half-hour mark. Bowen played in Tomas Soucek – The Czech providing a crisp, assured finish inside Daniel Bachmann’s near post.

And within two minutes, West Ham had turned the game on its head. Antonio, the provider with a low cross – Benrahma with a cool finish from eight yards.

Bowen thought he’d killed the contest two minutes after the restart. However, the former Hull City man scuppered a VAR call – Referee, Darren England was invited to change his mind after a foul was spotted by Soucek in the build-up.

But a mixture of VAR and a Watford defensive disaster led to the Hammers third. Keeper Bachmann was clumsy on Bowen after Antonio was somehow allowed to get the ball across by Sierralta. Mark Noble did the formalities from the resulting spot-kick.

In truth, the opening exchanges aside, this had been as comfortable a performance from the Hammers as you will see this season. Bachmann denied Antonio adding a fourth after Bowen had fashioned an opening. But when Bowen again wriggled clear in stoppage-time, substitute, Nikola Vlašić was provided with the simplest of opportunities to make it 4-1.

Fabianski had largely spectated since Dennis’s fifth-minute opener, but the Polish stopper earned his corn with a late save to deny the same player and then Kucka from the resulting flag-kick.

The result moved the Hammers back into fifth place. They return to Premier League action on Saturday, January 1 when they take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (5:30pm).

Watford: Bachmann, Femenia (Louza 40′), Masina, Cathcart, Sierralta, Kucka, Sissoko (Capt), Hernandez (Joao Pedro 46′), Tufan (Sema 62′), King, Dennis Subs not used: Angelini (GK), Gosling, Fletcher, Morris, Conteh

Booked: None

Goals: Emmanuel Dennis 5′

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Johnson (Masuaku 82′), Souček, Noble (Capt), Benrahma (Vlašić 86′), Lanzini (Král 89′), Bowen, Antonio Subs not used: Areola, Alese, Ashby, Fredericks, Okoflex, Yarmolenko

Booked: Craig Dawson (time-wasting)

Goals: Tomas Soucek 28′, Said Benrahma 30′, Mark Noble (penalty) 58′, Nikola Vlašić 90+4′

Referee: Darren England

Assistants: Dan Cook and Peter Kirkup

Fourth Official: Chris Kavanagh

VAR: Jonathan Moss

Assistant VAR: Lee Betts

Attendance: 20,073

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]