West Ham's winning run comes to an end with Watford defeat
PUBLISHED: 17:06 22 December 2018
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The Hammers had their chances but the Hornets were more clinical at the London Stadoium
West Ham United 0 Watford 2
There was to be no festive five-timer for West Ham United, who saw Scrooge-like Watford leave little Christmas cheer for Manuel Pellegrini’s men at the London Stadium
The Hornets stung the Hammers with a first-half penalty from Hornets skipper Troy Deeney and, after Michail Antonio struck the woodwork twice after the break, Gerard Deulofeu hampered all chances of a comeback with an 87th-minute strike.
A fantastic four-timer against Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Fulham had propelled the Hammers into ninth-spot and, following last Saturday’s victory at Craven Cottage, Pellegrini was, quite rightly, entitled to name an unchanged starting line-up.
Assured, assertive and attacking, West Ham certainly started in lively mood and - with a goal in each of his last two outings - Robert Snodgrass almost made it a treble when he robbed José Holebas on 10 minutes but his low 15-yarder was deflected aside for a corner, which the Scotsman duly planted onto Declan Rice’s forehead only for Ben Foster to save.
Last weekend’s win over Cardiff City – their first victory in seven Premier League matches – meant that Watford had arrived at London Stadium level on points with Pellegrini’s side but their inferior goal difference meant that they kicked-off one place below the Hammers.
Former West Ham starlet, Domingos Quina - who had netted his first-ever goal for the Hornets against the Bluebirds seven days earlier - unluckily made way for the fit-again Etienne Capoue as Javi Gracia made just one switch.
On the quarter-hour mark, Deulofeu drew Lukasz Fabianski but the Spaniard found himself ushered wide and the chance was lost and, shortly afterwards, Deeney forced a corner as Watford started to find their feet.
With the contest opening up, Antonio then saw Foster beat away his scorching 20-yarder, while at the other end, Holebas ghosted behind the home defence but the ball did not bounce kindly and he was thwarted at the expense of another corner.
Slowly but surely, the Hornets were clawing themselves into this end to end encounter and, on 27 minutes, they broke the deadlock when the consequently-cautioned Fabián Balbuena bundled over Roberto Pereyra leaving referee Lee Mason pointing instantly to the spot.
Deeney duly fired the resulting penalty under the right-hand angle as Fabianski headed off in the opposite direction and, having given his side the lead, the Watford captain then infuriated the home crowd by uprooting the corner flag.
Further insult was added was injury for Balbuena, who having been injured in that critical challenge on Pereyra, then found himself hobbling away to be replaced by Angelo Ogbonna, who was soon tripped on the 18-yard line by the Argentinian but with everyone Claret & Blue screaming for a penalty instead, the Watford wall did its job.
Antonio then headed back across goal to Javier Hernández, whose acrobatic eight-yarder was brilliantly beaten aside by the flying Foster and, as the interval approached, the Watford ‘keeper sprinted from goal to head clear and preserve an interval lead for his side.
Five minutes after the restart, West Ham thought they had levelled when Snodgrass whipped a right-wing corner towards the near post, where Antonio rose highest to agonisingly glance his header onto the far upright.
Christian Kabasele was then cautioned for slaying Snodgrass and, with the Hammers turning up the heat, Andy Carroll replaced Mark Noble on his 448th outing for the club – one that moved him into 13th place in the all-time West Ham United appearance chart.
Holebas also saw yellow for hacking Hernández, while Foster gratefully clutched a long-ranger from Arthur Masuaku before Pereyra’s low, angled shot was bundled away by Fabianski as Deeney prepared to pounce.
At the other end, Anderson weaved his way to the edge of the six-yard box, where he squared for Hernández, who uncharacteristically mis-kicked with the goal at his mercy.
After Antonio was harshly booked for colliding with Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucouré should have ended the contest, when Deulofeu squared into his path but Fabianski somehow diverted the point-blank shot over the top.
Yet again, Hernández found himself with the whites of Foster’s eyes in his sight but he was robbed by Doucouré in what would be the Mexican’s final act of the afternoon as Grady Diangana stepped from the dug-out for the final quarter-hour.
Fabianski came to West Ham’s rescue once more when he saved from Deeney but still the drama was not over and, with five minutes, the East End was left looking high into the dark December skies, when Diangana brilliantly cut down the right and crossed for Snodgrass, whose effort was clawed upwards by Foster, who was relieved to see Antonio nod the loose ball onto the crossbar.
That was a cruel blow for West Ham who having seen their No. 30 strike the woodwork twice in the second half, then had the double-whammy of watching Deulofeu burst behind their defence, where he played a crisp one-two before emptying the stadium with a low eight-yarder into the bottom right-hand corner.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Diop, Balbuena (Ogbonna 34), Noble (Carroll 55), Rice, Snodgrass, Anderson, Antonio, Hernández (Diangana 75). Unused subs: Adrián, Cresswell, Obiang, Silva.
HORNETS: Foster, Femenía, Holebas, Kabasele, Cathcart, Sema (Cleverley 75), Doucouré, Capoue, Deulofeu (Mariappa 90+1), Deeney (Success 85), Pereyra. Unused subs: Gomes, Masina, Quina, Okaka.
Booked: Balbuena (27), Kabasele (55), Holebas (60), Antonio (68), Diop (90+2).
Referee: Lee Mason