West Ham denied win by controversial VAR decision
PUBLISHED: 17:11 01 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:11 01 February 2020
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The Hammers twice led by two goals only for Brighton to come back and steal a point
West Ham United 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 3
Twice the hari-kari Hammers squandered a two-goal lead at the London Stadium where they somehow managed to turn three points into one and tumble into the dreaded drop-zone.
West Ham had looked in control after Issa Diop had slid the Hammers ahead with his second goal of the season on the half-hour mark, before Robert Snodgrass then doubled the lead seconds before the interval
Two minutes into the second half though, Angelo Ogbonna marked his 150th game for West Ham with a bizarre own-goal before Snodgrass claimed his fifth goal of the campaign with a vicious 20-yard volley.
But yet again West Ham contrived to blow their two-goal advantage as dire, dismal defending allowed Pascal Groß to give Brighton a glimmer of hope before their nemesis Glenn Murray equalised with a controversial, Video Assistant Referee-approved goal - his eighth against the Hammers - to secure an unlikely draw for the Seagulls.
David Moyes had splashed the cash in the run-up to this crucial fixture with the arrivals of Tomáš Souček and Jarrod Bowen and, following Wednesday evening's defeat against runaway champions-elect Liverpool, the Scot made a trio of changes.
While Bowen was not involved following his 11th-hour signing from Hull City, Czech international Souček - a loan capture from Slavia Prague - received a call-up alongside Ryan Fredericks and Michail Antonio as teenager Jeremy Ngakia stood down and Arthur Masuaku and Manuel Lanzini dropped to the bench.
And after Aaron Mooy and Antonio had both gone close with early headers in a frenetic opening, with only six minutes on the clock Souček - who had an assured 85 minutes - almost made a dream start to life in the Premier League.
Dusting himself down after being impeded during a bulldozing run, the flying Czech met Mark Noble's consequent free-kick into the area, where Mat Ryan produced an acrobatic parry to beat away the new boy's header.
Antonio also sent a jack-knife header behind at the near post after Snodgrass whipped over a left-wing free-kick and, with the Hammers looking tigerish in the tackle and hurriedly haranguing the Seagulls, West Ham were dominant.
Defeat at AFC Bournemouth 11 days earlier meant that Brighton - with just one victory in their last 10 outings - kicked off in 15th-spot two places and two points above the Hammers, who had failed to beat the Seagulls in any of their five Premier League encounters to date.
Graham Potter also made three changes as Murray, Leandro Trossard, and Martin Montoya came in for substitutes Neal Maupay, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Steven Alzate.
On 25 minutes, against the run of play, Trossard broke between both Diop and Angelo Ogbonna but the lone figure of Łukasz Fabianski spared the blushes of his central defenders with a low save.
But on the half-hour Diop made his presence count at the other end, when he slid home a left-wing free-kick from Snodgrass from eight yards to give the Hammers a deserved lead.
Indeed, the West Ham might even have doubled their advantage ten minutes before the interval, when Noble broke upfield with the unlikely support of Ogbonna but the red-faced skipper could only produce an over-zealous air-shot, when the Italian laid the return pass back into his path.
Antonio then saw Montoya charge down his stinging 15-yarder and the West Ham wide boy also had another curling effort saved by Ryan shortly afterwards as the Moyes' boys still looked to put more daylight between themselves and Albion.
Just in the nick of time, they did indeed double their lead when Snodgrass sprinted down the right flank before back-heeling to the overlapping Fredericks, who chipped towards the far post. Although Montoya rose highest to clear, his header fell to Snodgrass, who rifled in a low 15-yarder that deflected off Webster and beyond the sprawling Ryan.
Just two minutes after the restart, though, Brighton halved the deficit in curious circumstances, when a corner by Groß was punched onto the oblivious Ogbonna's head by Fabianski and the Hammers duo could only look on in horror as the ball flew into their own net.
On 57 minutes, though, West Ham looked to have eased any jitters in spectacular style, when Aaron Cresswell's out-swinging, left-wing corner was nodded clear by Murray only for Snodgrass to send a 20-yard volley sizzling back through the chilly Stratford air and into the net with a little help of Bernardo's headed deflection.
Antonio was denied by Ryan after Declan Rice found him with an intricate pass before both Solly March and Ezequiel Schelotto replaced Mooy and Montoya while Masuaku came on for Antonio, who departed to rapturous applause following his industrious 70-minute shift.
March soon forced Fabianski into a low stop with a scorching 15-yarder before West Ham handed Brighton yet another life-line with yet more calamitous defending. This time, Masuaku contrived to pass to Trossard, whose attempted pass into the Hammers area, saw the stooping Diop sell Fabianski short, and Groß dinked the ball inside the base of the right-hand post.
Still it was West Ham's to squander and, sure enough, with 10 minutes remaining Pröpper sent over a deep right-wing cross, which eluded the entire Hammers defence and Murray -who survived a tight VAR call for handball- slammed an angled shot into the net to level.
And but for Fabianski it could have got yet worse as the Pole brilliantly clawed March's dipping free-kick out from underneath his right-hand angle after Ogbonna had been booked for chopping the Seagulls substitute.
That save secured a point for the grateful Hammers, while the crowd of 59,952 departed wondering just how West Ham had not banked all three ahead of tricky trips to Manchester City and Liverpool.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Fredericks, Cresswell, Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Noble, Součék (Fornals 85), Snodgrass (Lanzini 85), Antonio (Masuaku 74), Haller. Unused subs: Randolph, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Ajeti.
SEAGULLS: Ryan, Montoya (Schelotto 71), Webster, Dunk, Stephens, Bernardo, Trossard, Groß, Pröpper, Mooy (March 71), Murray. Unused subs: Button, Maupay, Jahanbakhsh, Connolly, Alzate.
Booked: Stephens (52), Ogbonna (89).
Referee: Michael Oliver.