West Ham make it back-to-back wins as they ease past Cardiff City with second-half blitz
PUBLISHED: 21:53 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 21:53 04 December 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers sub Perez strikes twice after Fabianski penalty save
West Ham United 3 Cardiff Xity 1
Spanish super-sub Lucas Pérez stepped from the bench to blast home a deadly-double and send the Hammers on their way to back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time in nearly two years, as the Bluebirds were simply shot from the Stratford skies.
Having seen Lukasz Fabianski brilliantly save Joe Ralls first-half penalty, West Ham United ruthlessly ripped Cardiff City apart after the break with a devastating three-goal salvo inside a dozen second half minutes.
Peréz - on for the injured Marko Arnautović - netted in the 49th and 54th minutes to take his Hammers goal tally to four since his deadline day arrival from Arsenal and then the recalled Michail Antonio sealed successive wins for the first time since January 2017 just after the hour-mark, before substitute Josh Murphy netted a stoppage time consolation for the visitors.
Following their fantastic three-goal victory at Newcastle United on Saturday, the Hammers who kicked-off in 13th-spot – three places and four points above Cardiff – made a trio of changes in defence as Antonio, Arthur Masuaku and Angelo Ogbonna each came in for an injured Aaron Cresswell (hamstring) plus substitutes Pablo Zabaleta and Fabián Balbuena.
And it was the recalled Antonio who headed the first chance of the evening well wide after Robert Snodgrass had whipped in an early free-kick and then the Scotsman, himself, saw a 15-yarder deflected past the left-hand post.
Felipe Anderson’s 18-yard shot also forced a corner as West Ham looked the most threatening in the opening exchanges and, when the Brazilian then picked out the escaping Arnautović, Neil Etheridge comfortably held the Austrian’s attempted lob.
On 20 minutes, Ogbonna met another Snodgrass corner with a powerful eight-yard header that the Bluebirds ‘keeper palmed over the top and, from the consequent flag-kick, Etheridge got down to save Declan Rice’s downward effort at the second attempt.
The Bluebirds 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday night had lifted them out of the bottom three but they arrived in the East End having scored a mere two goals on the road, while collecting just one away point and, following that victory, Neil Warnock made just one change as Joe Bennett replaced substitute, Murphy.
With the half-hour mark approaching, Aron Gunnarsson curled the visitors’ first attempt of the evening over the angle and, shortly afterwards, Victor Camarasa let fly with a scorching effort that tested Fabianski to the maximum as he beat the swerving, curling shot to safety.
It had taken a while but Cardiff were now finding their feet and, when Junior Hoilett lost his following a nudge by Arnautović on 35 minutes, the Welshmen looked set to take the lead as referee Graham Scott instantly pointed to the spot.
But former Swansea City ‘keeper Fabianski had other ideas, diving low to his left to save Ralls’ consequent penalty-kick to joy of everyone Claret & Blue.
Rolls agony was compounded shortly afterwards, when he was booked for felling the escaping Anderson, while Arnautović – who had been yellow carded, too, for disputing that award – also saw his evening deteriorate further, when he departed clutching his hamstring to be replaced by Pérez, who soon saw that man Fabianski deny Camarasa once more, to keep it goalless at the break.
While his team-mates enjoyed their half-time cuppa, Pérez stayed outside acclimatising to the pitch and the Spaniard’s diligence paid off within three minutes of the restart, when he blasted the Hammers ahead.
Anderson’s left wing dash and cross saw skipper Mark Noble waywardly loft the ball skywards and with neither Bennett nor Sean Morrison able to head clear, Snodgrass prodded into the path of Pérez whose powerful eight-yarder flew through the clutches of the well-beaten Etheridge.
Having got his first Premier League for the Hammers, the Spanish substitute wasted no time doubling that tally, when Noble played in the overlapping Masuaku on 54 minutes and, arriving right on cue, Pérez ghosted between Morrison and Gunnarsson to sweep an angled six-yarder beyond the Cardiff ‘keeper.
Still West Ham were not finished and Pellegrini’s men got their third goal in a dozen minutes, when Snodgrass whipped a 61st-minute corner to the near-post, where Antonio squeezed between Harry Arter and Callum Paterson to glance his six-yard header into an ever-rippling Cardiff net.
With the job looking done, Javier Hernández retired as Andy Carroll made a welcome first outing of the season, while Ralls miserable night came to an end, when he departed alongside Hoilett as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Murphy entered the fray.
Rice, Ogbonna and Anderson plus substitutes Grady Diangana and Carroll could each have added to the score-line in the final stages and, although Murphy bundled a scrappy late header over the line in stoppage time, the Hammers departed delighted with six points and six goals inside four fabulous days, while Warnock’s wobbling side were just glad to hear the final whistle ahead of their long trip home to Wales.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Antonio, Masuaku, Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Noble, Snodgrass (Diangana 75), Anderson, Hernández (Carroll 64), Arnautović (Pérez 40). Unused subs: Adrián, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Obiang.
BLUEBIRDS: Etheridge, Manga, Bennett, Morrison, Bamba, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Arter (Mendez-Laing 64), Camarasa, Hoilett (Murphy 64), Paterson (Harris 73). Unused subs: Smithies, Peltier, Reid, Madine.
Booked: Arnautović (36), Ralls (40), Bamba (65)
Referee: Graham Scott.
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