West Ham slump to defeat at Watford as misery continues
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Missed chances cost West Ham dear as David Moues’ reign starts with a loss
Watford 2 West Ham United 0
Same boat. Different river. Fifteen days on from the dismal defeat against Liverpool that proved the catalyst for Slaven Bili?’s departure, the Croatian’s replacement endured an equally agonising afternoon at Vicarage Road.
With the Hammers still stuck in the bottom three, new man David Moyes will be under no illusions as to the size of the task that he has taken on in the East End, after seeing Will Hughes give Watford an interval lead before Richarlison sealed victory midway through the second half.
In the Hammers hot seat for the first time – and taking charge for his 500th Premier League match - Moyes made three switches to the side that had been destroyed by Jürgen Klopp’s rampant Reds as Pablo Zabaleta, Andy Carroll and Marco Arnautovi? received recalls in place of Edimilson Fernandes and injured duo, Javier Hernandez and André Ayew.
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And by the end of this contest, that trio of changes had made little difference to a West Ham United side kicking-off in 18th spot, six points adrift of the Hornets.
With his new manager asking for immediate intensity from his players, the unpunished Carroll perhaps pushed that request to the limit, taking just seconds to plant an elbow onto debutant Marvin Zeegelaar’s nose as the airborne duo went in pursuit of a high ball.
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But having just been clogged in a painful introduction to the Premier League, the groggy Dutchman soon exacted his revenge by conjuring up Watford’s opener.
On 11 minutes, Zeegelaar floated over a left-wing cross that eventually fell to Andre Gray, whose disappointment at mis-kicking on the penalty spot was soon forgotten, when Hughes latched on to loose ball and curled an unstoppable 10-yarder inside Joe Hart’s right-hand post, to claim his first-ever Watford goal.
Everton’s last-gasp winner, a fortnight ago had made it a hat-trick of defeats for the Hornets and, following that Goodison Park reverse, manager Marco Silva – ironically a Toffees target – had made two changes calling-up Zeegelaar for the first time alongside Adrian Mariappa in place of substitutes José Holebas and André Carillo.
With the buzzing Hornets going in search of a second goal, the best that the Hammers could muster was a wayward, ambitious Aaron Cresswell free-kick from the half-way line that drifted well wide and then, with a whole possé of Watford defenders nipping at his ankles, the consequently cautioned Carroll bundled over Richarlison in frustration.
As the half-hour mark approached, Miguel Britos was also booked for felling the escaping Cheikhou Kouyaté on a rare raid forward, before Silva’s side came within a whisker of doubling their advantage, when Richarlison’s low 18-yarder was pushed away by Hart, who then saw Kiko Femenía drill the loose ball inches wide from inside the area.
Arnautovi? was the next name in the book for sliding through Tom Cleverley before Pedro Obiang made it a hat-trick of Hammers cautions for hacking Hughes.
Indeed, the midfield shield of Obiang, Kouyaté and Noble had been working overtime to repel the yellow tide but just two minutes before the break, the holding Hammers broke forward and almost levelled.
Skipper Noble unlocked the Hornets’ defence with an inch-perfect pass to Kouyaté but the alert Heurelho Gomes smothered the eight-yarder and the ball squirmed agonisingly past the base of the ‘keeper’s right-hand upright for the only corner of the half.
By now, with the Vicarage Road crowd baying for blood, Carroll was testing referee Andre Marriner’s patience to the absolute limit with a string of niggly skirmishes that could easily have led to a reckless red card.
Right on the break, though, the home crowd’s focus returned to Gomes, who earned a standing ovation all round for an amazing double-stop that kept out Arnautovi?’s eight-yard header and point-blank follow-up before the aghast Austrian scooped into the Brazilian’s gloves from a tight-angle to make it third time unlucky.
Just after the restart, Gray blasted over the angle, while at other end Arnautovi? cut back for Kouyaté, who wastefully sent a 15-yarder high into the cold, dark Hertfordshire heavens, before Abdoulaye Doucouré rifled just inches wide from just outside the area.
Hughes also saw his deflected shot loop into Hart’s clutches, while Gray’s 18-yard curler clipped Winston Reid’s toe before whistling past the far post and, as the hour mark approached, Hart somehow clawed away Mariappa’s downward header.
After a gruelling 24,000-mile round trip to New Zealand and Peru that ended with World Cup elimination for the Kiwis, the jet-lagged Reid really did not need to be working so hard on a Sunday afternoon.
And midway through the half, the Hammers central defender found himself on the rack, once more, as Hughes released Richarlison with a defence-splitting pass from halfway and, holding off Reid, the barnstorming Brazilian cut in from the left-wing before striking an unstoppable low 12-yarder across the face of the helpless Hart and into the far corner.
Richarlison’s fifth goal of the campaign was the cue for Diafra Sakho to replace Carroll and, after Hart saved low from Doucouré, Arnautovi? was carried away clutching his wrist after falling awkwardly between Zeegelaar and Doucouré, as Arthur Masuaku entered the fray.
Manuel Lanzini had a low 18-yarder cleared off the line by Christian Kabasele, who also looked to have handballed but the claret and blue appeals fell on deaf ears and, with the Hammers looking increasingly unlikely to salvage anything for their new boss, their fed-up, frustrated fans spent a futile finale venting their anger towards Directors Box and dug-out on an afternoon to forget.
HORNETS: Gomes, Femenía (Holebas 86), Kabasele, Britos, Mariappa, Hughes (Pereyra 84), Doucouré, Cleverley, Zeegelaar, Gray, Richarlison. Unused subs: Karnezis, Prödl, Carrillo, Capoue, Okaka.
HAMMERS: Hart, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna, Kouyaté, Obiang, Noble, Arnautovi? (Masuaku 74), Lanzini, Carroll (Sakho 64). Unused subs: Adrián, Martinez, Fernandes, Quina, Rice.
Booked: Carroll (28), Britos (29), Arnautovi? (35), Obiang (38), Noble (83).
Referee: Andre Marriner.