West Ham shut off the Stoke City power with emphatic victory
PUBLISHED: 18:04 16 December 2017 | UPDATED: 19:04 16 December 2017
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The Hammers storm out of the bottom three with victory that could have been a lot bigger
Stoke City 0 West Ham United 3
West Ham United produced an electrifying performance to surge out of the bottom three at the Britannia Stadium.
A power cut delayed kick-off by an hour but once the switch was flicked, David Moyes men burst into life to claim victory thanks to goals from Mark Noble, the returning Marko Arnuatović and substitute Diafra Sakho that left sorry Stoke City manager Mark Hughes blowing a fuse.
Noble became the first Hammer ever to make 300 appearances for the club and the triple-centurion celebrated by netting a controversial 19th-minute penalty after Erik Pieters was adjudged to have fouled Manuel Lanzini.
And although the Hammers skipper worryingly hobbled away injured on the half-hour mark, Lanzini will be equally anxious to see whether the dive police take retrospective action after reviewing his theatrical tumble onto the deck that left the Potters going potty.
After the break, Arnautović finally doubled the lead on 75 minutes before Sakho rounded off a dominant win.
West Ham had thrown the switch on a wretched eight-match, win-less run with last Saturday’s victory over Chelsea followed by a gritty goalless draw against Arsenal in midweek and, kicking off in 19th-place - three rungs and two points adrift of Stoke - the Hammers made just one enforced change from the side that had silenced the Gunners as James Collins came in for the suspended Winston Reid.
That meant another start for the in-form, yet mercilessly-jeered, Arnautović, returning to the Britannia Stadium following his record-breaking £24million move from Stoke City in the summer but it was another on-song Hammer, Arthur Masuaku, who provided the first threat of the afternoon with a rampaging run and 20-yard shot that flew wide of the left-hand angle.
On 10 minutes, Arnautović’s strength allowed him to set up the supporting Michail Antonio, whose 18-yarder was gathered by the Stoke ‘keeper and, a little later, the Austrian almost played in the lively Lanzini with an attempted backheel.
Sparky Hughes’ short-circuiting Potters came into this delayed encounter with just one win in their last seven outings but, following Tuesday’s defeat at Burnley, the Welshman made just one change as Kevin Wimmer replaced an injured Kurt Zouma.
With a dozen minutes on the clock, Ramadan Sobhi robbed Pablo Zabaleta to start a free-flowing move that climaxed with Xherdan Shaqiri dragging wide from 15 yards and, shortly afterwards, the Stoke midfielder floated over a free-kick that Ryan Shawcross headed onto the base of Adrián’s left-hand post.
That was the catalyst for 30 seconds of mayhem for as the busy Shaqiri attempted to recycle West Ham’s scrambled half-clearance, he went down under pressure from Masuaku but referee Graham Scott was unimpressed with the Swiss roll.
As Stoke screamed for a free-kick that never came, Lanzini burst upfield into the Potters area, where he tumbled onto the frosty Staffordshire turf under negligible contact from a lunging Pieters and the dumbfounded Dutchman could only look on in horror as Noble stroked the consequent spot-kick right of centre as Butland headed in the opposite direction.
Having given his side that 19th-minute lead, the Hammers skipper then saw Wimmer booked for felling Antonio before retiring just a quarter-hour later with ahamstring strain as substitute Declan Rice stepped from the bench to bring the goal-scorer’s historic afternoon to a premature end.
With a controversial first-half drawing to a close, the escaping Arnautović found himself with just Butland to beat but he fired his shot at the advancing ‘keeper’s knees and then the villain of the piece, Lanzini saw his low 25-yarder palmed aside.
And in the dying seconds, Shaqiri curled inches wide before Arnautović - to the delight of the Stoke supporters - once again, squandered another chance to give the Hammers a two-goal interval lead, when he blasted high over from ten yards.
Early in the second half, Shawcross was cautioned for upending Masuaku but it was the Potters who pressed as Mame Diouf, Joe Allen and Sobhi each threatened Adrián.
Against the run of play, Arnautović broke free, once more, but this time his angled shot deflected behind off Wimmer’s heels to the visible frustration of Moyes and, with Masuaku then booked for time-wasting, Hughes decided to bring some urgency to proceedings with a triple-switch that saw Saido Berahino, Charlie Adam and Josh Tymon come on for the last half-hour.
Yet again, Arnautović had another chance to silence the Stoke supporters but this time his 15-yarder curled onto Butland’s bar and away to safety and then the Austrian ripped another angled shot into the side-netting before Diafra Sakho replaced Antonio.
Shawcross headed Adam’s cross over from six yards to the relief of Adrián and with the contest ebbing and flowing, Arnautović set up Sakho, who snatched at the chance and the substitute’s 12-yarder rolled wide of the far post.
With a quarter-hour remaining, Arnautović finally got the goal that he had been threatening all afternoon when he played a one-two with Lanzini on the edge of the area before advancing to edge of the six-yard box unchallenged and drilling a low shot past the helplessly exposed Butland.
To a man, the 3,143 vociferous East Enders sarcastically chanted: ‘What a waste of money” as their £24 million man celebrated his second goal for the club and that left the home fans urging: “Hughes Out!” as the Stoke manager surveyed a rapidly emptying arena.
Still the drama was not over as Arnautović was replaced by Javier Hernández and as he arrived in the technical area with Stoke boos ringing in his ears, a Potters jersey was hurled his way before the Austrian was escorted away to the dressing rooms for his own safety.
Hernández burst forward and unselfishly crossed to Sakho but his fellow substitute failed to control the simplest of passes and an attempted, recovering back-heel headed back across goal to safety to the bemusement of those left in the ground.
But with just four minutes remaining, Sakho was given another chance, when Pedro Obiang sent Lanzini clear and the Argentinian ace invited the Senegalese striker to cement victory with an eight-yarder that well and truly turned the lights out on Stoke City.
HAMMERS: Adrián, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Collins, Masuaku, Obiang, Noble (Rice 34), Arnautović (Hernández 79), Lanzini, Antonio (Sakho 67). Unused subs: Hart, Ayew, Hakšabanović, Makasi.
POTTERS: Butland, Cameron, Pieters (Tymon 63), Shawcross, Wimmer, Fletcher (Adam 62), Allen, Sobhi, Shaqiri, Diouf (Berahino 62), Crouch. Unused subs: Grant, Ngoy, Edwards, Choupo-Moting,
Booked: Wimmer (24), Shawcross (50), Masuaku (60).
Referee: Graham Scott.