West Ham United 2-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Tomas Soucek’s late goal salvaged a point for West Ham United although I think it’s fair to say this was far from the Christmas cracker the scoreline might have suggested.
Defeat at Chelsea a week previous took the gloss off the Hammers recent form. Nevertheless, boss David Moyes focused on the continued improvement from his charges during the first half of the campaign.
“We’ve had some outstanding performers so far this season – some of our players are playing as well as anybody else in the country,” the Scotsman enthused.
“We’ve also had big improvements from players who may be over the last year or two have not played as well. From the players’ point of view, they have to be really pleased with what they’ve done.”
Brighton arrived in East London defending a six-match unbeaten sequence against the Hammers, stretching back to their return to the top flight in 2017 and they were swiftly on the front foot with Danny Welbeck firing over from an acute angle, while Neal Maupay’s attempt was deflected behind. Jarrod Bowen was too high as the home side settled and searched for a foothold.
But it was largely cautious, edgy, possession-based football from both sides during the opening exchanges, with neither offering a viable threat or, for that matter, looking particularly tidy.
Adam Webster’s header found Lukasz Fabianski’s gloves, while a speculative attempt from Dan Burn spun behind and one from Solly March found the side-netting as the Seagulls stepped up their efforts, albeit tentatively.
Vladimir Coufal’s strike was rebuffed, while Fabianski clung to another March attempt. However, as the half drew to its conclusion, Maupay seized on some hesitant Hammers defending to fire the Seagulls ahead.
Moyes threw Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko into the fray in a bid to exorcise an unwelcome return of West Ham from ‘Christmas past’ – And on the hour they restored parity. Ben Johnson was on hand to steer home his first Premier League goal for the East Londoners, this after the Brighton backline hardly covered themselves in glory in dealing with Yarmolenko’s cross and subsequent attempts from Soucek and Lanzini.
West Ham was on terms for just ten minutes. Lewis Dunk, the latest to benefit from woeful defending – VAR clearing a call for handball against the Seagulls defender after he’d rifled home from close range – this time it was Soucek’s defensive capabilities brought into question following Leandro Trossard and March’s corner routine.
But Soucek was quick to make amends. The popular Czech arrived to head powerfully home after Aaron Cresswell’s flag-kick had found its way across goal via Dunk’s unintentional flick.
Both sides probed for a winning goal it could be argued neither’s toil deserved. West Ham United return to Premier League action on Tuesday, December 29 when they take on Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium (6pm).
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Aaron Cresswell Fabian Balbuena, Vladimir Coufal, Mark Noble (Capt) (Manuel Lanzini 46’), Jarrod Bowen (Andriy Yarmolenko 46’), Angelo Ogbonna, Sebastien Haller, Tomas Soucek, Ben Johnson, Declan Rice Subs not used: Darren Randolph (GK), Said Benrahma, Robert Snodgrass, Craig Dawson, Pablo Fornals, Issa Diop, Ryan Fredericks
Goals: Ben Johnson 60’, Tomas Soucek 82’
Brighton & Hove Albion: Robert Sanchez, Ben White, Adam Webster, Lewis Dunk (Capt), Yves Bissouma, Neal Maupay (Alireza Jahanbakhsh 90’), Leandro Trossard, Adam Lallana (Steven Alzate 46’), Danny Welbeck (Pascal Gross 83’), Solly March, Dan Burn Subs not used: Jason Steele (GK), Alexis MacAllister, Davy Propper, Andi Zeqiri, Bernardo, Joel Veltman
Goals: Neal Maupay 44’, Lewis Dunk 70’
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistants: Derek Eaton and Matthew Jones
Fourth Official: Lee Mason
VAR: Andy Madley
Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday