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Watford 1-3 West Ham United
SEBASTIEN HALLER impressively opened his West Ham United account with a bullish brace as the east Londoners impressively saw off a determined Watford side at Vicarage Road
With both sides still searching for their inaugural league success of the campaign, there was a collective air of anxiety amongst those arriving in the Hertfordshire sun.
West Ham, a point better off than their hosts, made four changes to the side which had played out a 1-1 draw at Brighton a week previous. Boss, Manuel Pellegrini, bringing in skipper Mark Noble, Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko.
Pointless Watford was handed a blow with the news that Troy Deeney’s knee surgery would keep their influential captain sidelined for several weeks.
And there was further trouble for the Hornets in the opening minutes. Manuel Lanzini was felled by Abdoulaye Doucoure following a swift raid from deep. The ever-dependable Noble – fifteen years to the day after making his West Ham debut – sending Ben Foster the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.
Gerard Deulofeu clipped the angle, while Issa Diop also denied the Spaniard with a superb saving tackle, as Watford – perhaps feeling a little hard done by – looked for an immediate response.
And shortly after the quarter of an hour mark, they restored parity. Will Hughes played in Andre Gray, who in turn, fired a low, angled right-footed strike beyond the stranded Lukasz Fabianski.
After their difficult start to proceedings, it was the home side who were now beginning to call the shots. Deulofeu and Hughes proving to be chief mischief-makers as the Hammers dug deep and in numbers.
Meanwhile, Doucoure was a whisker away for amending for his earlier error. His glancing header deflected away by Angelo Ogbonna – this after Kiko Femenia fashion an opening from the right.
Nevertheless, Anderson almost delivered a sucker-punch, nodding Lanzini’s flag-kick against the foot of an upright as West Ham briefly threatened towards the conclusion of the opening period.
Yarmolenko drew a smart save from Foster as the Hammers – refreshed and replenished – appeared to have found a foothold. However, the visitors survived a huge let-off when Hughes somehow missed the target from little over a yard out after Gray had rounded Fabianski and rolled across a gaping goal.
The contest had become stretched and a little scruffy. Foster raced from his goal to thwart substitute, Michail Antonio. But shortly after the hour, West Ham restored their earlier advantage – Haller provided with the simplest of chances following a superb scurry and centre from Lanzini.
Foster scooped out Antonio’s diving header, then turned another attempt from the one-time Nottingham Forest man onto the top of the woodwork. But this time the former England stopper was out of luck – Haller reacting spectacularly to hook into an empty net to all but seal the points.
Tom Cleverley blazed over, while Fabianski used his feet to good effect to deny Doucoure as the Hornets desperation grew. But this particular race was already run from a Watford perspective.
The victory moved the Hammers up to 13th in the Premier League and they now turn their attention to the Carabao Cup, facing Newport County at Rodney Parade on Tuesday, August 27 (7:45pm).
West Ham returns to Premier League action on Saturday, August 31, when Norwich City are the visitors to the London Stadium (3pm).
Watford: Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Gerard Deulofeu (Danny Welbeck 74′), Tom Cleverley (Domingos Quina 86′), Craig Cathcart, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andre Gray, Will Hughes (Ismaila Sarr 74′), Kiko Femenia, Jose Holebas, Etienne Capoue (Capt) Subs not used: Heurelho Gomes, Daryl Janmaat, Nathaniel Chalobah, Christian Kabasele
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Andriy Yarmolenko (Michail Antonio 55′), Felipe Anderson (Pablo Fornals 78′), Manuel Lanzini (Carlos Sanchez 87′), Mark Noble (Capt), Angelo Ogbonna, Sebastien Haller, Issa Diop, Ryan Fredericks, Arthur Masuaku, Declan Rice Subs not used: Roberto, Fabian Balbuena, Pablo Zabaleta, Albian Ajeti
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Dan Cook and Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth Official: Darren Bond
Reaction to follow….