West Ham humiliated as Brighton cruise to victory
PUBLISHED: 22:05 20 October 2017
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Hammers boss Bilic back under pressure as his team put in pitiful performance
West Ham United 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 3
It proved a messy night at London Stadium, where the Seagulls soared to victory over woeful West Ham United.
Glenn Murray headed home his first goal of the season to give Brighton a 10th-minute lead and, although the Hammers desperately tried to get back on level terms, against the run of play, José Izquierdo – a £16 million summer-signing from Club Brugge – got off the mark in England with an unstoppable shot in first-half stoppage time.
And there was yet worse to come for Slaven Bilić’s brow-beaten side, when Murray fired home a 75th-minute penalty on a cataclysmic night for West Ham’s Croatian boss, who will now sadly find the pressure heaped heavily back on his shoulders.
Coming into this Friday night encounter, level on eight points and separated by just one place, there had been little to choose between these sides, who had both seen victory snatched from them in the dying moments, last weekend.
Following their 1-1 draw at Burnley, the Hammers in 15th-spot had made two changes as Arthur Masuaku and Pedro Obiang came in for the suspended Andy Carroll and substitute Aaron Cresswell.
The Seagulls had also made two changes after their 1-1 draw against Everton, as former Hammer Chris Hughton made two changes, calling up Izquierdo and Gaëtan Bong in place of substitutes Solly March and Markus Suttner.
And it was Izquierdo, who had the first chance of the evening but, unmarked 15 yards out, he wastefully sent a cleverly-worked corner sailing high into the Stratford skies, however with West Ham still looking to find their way into the final third, the visitors were far more accurate second time around.
With just ten minutes on the clock, the protesting Obiang conceded a soft free-kick midway inside the Hammers half, which Pascal Gross sent diagonally into the area, where Murray got between Winston Reid and Michail Antonio to send an angled, eight-yard header inside Joe Hart’s right-hand post.
In reply, Javier Hernández and Reid both failed to seriously trouble Matthew Ryan in the Brighton goal, before the Kiwi then had another 15-yarder deflected wide.
Antonio needed treatment after being baulked by Bong and then both the booked Hernández and Man-of-the-Match, Anthony Knockært collided heavily and, as the physios finally retreated back to their dug-outs, Masuaku’s 20-yarder was deflected onto the roof of the Brighton net.
Midway through the half, a good, old-fashioned goalmouth scramble climaxed with Hernández sending an angled shot sailing beyond the far post and, with Brighton on the ropes Obiang drilled a low 25-yarder through a pack of players into Ryan’s gloves.
Despite being a goal to the good, the Seagulls were just feeding off scraps as West Ham dominated possession, sending in cross after cross and, as the interval approached, Pablo Zabaleta delivered a right-wing centre onto the penalty spot, where Shane Duffy put his life on the line to block Hernández’s point-blank effort.
The Mexican then came within a whisker of netting his first-ever Premier League goal from outside the area with a low, angled 20-yarder that agonisingly rolled beyond the base of the far post as West Ham desperately sought an equaliser.
A goal was certainly coming.
But to the despair of everyone Claret & Blue amongst the crowd of 56,977, it was breaking Brighton who found the net against all odds in first-half stoppage time.
Seconds after the overlapping Murray had forced a full-length parry out of Hart, the visitors recycled the ball out to Izquierdo on the left-flank, where the Colombian cut inside and skipped past the sliding Obiang before curling an unstoppable 20-yarder around José Fonte and under the England ‘keeper’s left-hand angle.
With boos of disbelief ringing around the London Stadium, the Hammers now trudged off two goals adrift and that saw André Ayew replace Cheikhou Kouyaté for the restart.
But it was not until the hour-mark that re-shuffled West Ham mustered a serious effort towards goal and, even then, Manuel Lanzini disappointingly cleared the bar with a 25-yard free-kick.
Shortly afterwards, the Argentinian went closer with another award from similar range but this time his effort was deflected an inch or so wide of the left-hand post, before Izquierdo was replaced by March.
Curiously, Marko Arnautović was asked to make way for Edimilson Fernandes and the young Swiss international was still finding his feet as Zabaleta’s rash challenge on Murray saw the Brighton striker lose his.
With referee Martin Atkinson instantly pointing to the spot, Murray dusted himself down and – having been foiled by Hart just moments earlier - drilled the consequent spot-kick straight down the middle as the ‘keeper headed to his right.
That was the cue for the Hammers fans to vote with their feet as they launched a mass-evacuation of the stunned stadium and with the Brighton fans in full voice, vociferous Sussex chants of ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ rang out as the beleaguered Bilić stood in his technical area surveying damage of a difficult night during which his side had two-thirds of the possession but absolutely no impact.
HAMMERS: Hart, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Reid, Fonte, Obiang, Kouyaté (Ayew h/t), Lanzini, Arnautović (Fernandes 73), Antonio, Hernández. Unused subs: Adrián, Cresswell, Noble, Ogbonna, Byram.
SEAGULLS: Ryan, Bruno, Bong, Dunk, Stephens, Knockært (Schelotto 83, Groß (Brown 75), Murray, Izquierdo (March 69), Duffy, Pröpper. Unused subs: Krul, Goldson, Suttner, Molumby.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.