West Ham grab deserved draw as sub Ayew strikes at Watford
PUBLISHED: 19:52 25 February 2017 | UPDATED: 19:52 25 February 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers striker MichaIl Antonio gets two yellow cards and will miss Chelsea clash
Watford 1 West Ham United 1
Substitute André Ayew rescued a precious point for West Ham United at saturated Vicarage Road, after Slaven Bilić’s side had been stung by an early Hornets’ penalty.
Troy Deeney’s third-minute spot-kick gave Watford the lead after Cheikhou Kouyaté brazenly bundled former Hammers team-mate Mauro Zárate to the floor and for much of the opening half the visitors looked like they were going to drown in the unwelcome Watford rain.
But the rejuvenated, re-generated, re-galvanised East Enders mounted a stirring second-half recovery to draw themselves level and, even though Michail Antonio was dismissed late on for a second yellow card, they held out for a deserved share of the spoils.
The Hammers, who came into this game suitably refreshed from their warm weather training trip to Dubai kicked off in 10th-spot, two points and three places above the Hornets and were unchanged from the side that had drawn 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion last time out.
With West Ham in his sights, Walter Mazzarri made two switches to the team that had lost at Manchester United before the FA Cup fifth round break as substitutes Sebastian Prödl and Craig Cathcart made way for Daryl Janmaat and ex-West Ham United midfielder Valon Behrami.
But with just two minutes on the clock, it was another former Hammer, Zárate, who was in the thick of things as he theatrically fell to the floor following clumsy Kouyaté’s senseless shove on him in the box.
And that gave Deeney the perfect opportunity to send the consequent spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner as diving Darren Randolph, while guessing correctly, could not prevent the Watford skipper from claiming his eighth goal of the season.
That nightmare opening could have got yet worse, when M’Baye Niang sent a rising 20-yarder just inches over the right angle and then both José Holebas and Étienne Capoue went wide from distance as the visitors struggled to get a foothold on the game.
On 20 minutes, though, Sofiane Feghouli cut in from the right before cutting back to Robert Snodgrass, whose goalbound effort was bravely blocked by Younès Kaboul and then as the half-hour mark neared, the Scottish international scuffed high and wide with an eminently forgettable 25-yarder.
Daryl Janmaat was consequently-cautioned for tripping Antonio as he accelerated down the left flank ten minutes before the break, but Manuel Lanzini could only curl the resultant free-kick over the far angle and, as West Ham desperately tried to level Aaron Cresswell also sent a rising 25-yard effort dipping over the top.
Just before the interval, Snodgrass could not make clean contact after Heurelho Gomes parried Cresswell’s low cut-back into his path but, just as he had been involved at the start of the half with Kouyaté, Zàrate was in the thick of it again at the end of the first period, finally finding himself stretchered away to sympathetic applause from both sets of fans after twisting his knee awkwardly in his bid to close down the Senegal midfielder.
A long and frustrating first-half for the Hammers ended with Antonio being yellow carded for a high challenge on Behrami in the 10th minute of stoppage time and, just after the restart, the furious Kouyaté felt he should have had a penalty when he was bundled over by compatriot Niang, without reward.
Janmaat also hobbled away to be replaced by Cathcart and, with the Hammers now suddenly showing much more urgency, Lanzini cleverly chipped to the far post, where Snodgrass was denied and then the Argentinian ace almost played in Antonio but Gomes somehow palmed the ball clear.
On the hour, José Fonte’s goalbound header was tipped around his left post by Gomes before another clash between Kouyaté and Niang saw the Hammers powerhouse booked, ahead of Ayew replacing Snodgrass.
Niang did not take long to get into referee Pawson’s book for a niggly trip on Lanzini and, midway through the half, Cresswell whipped over a left-wing cross that the in-rushing Antonio nodded wide from six yards.
With just 17 minutes remaining, West Ham finally got the reward that their second half endeavours deserved, when Feghouli released Antonio from half-way and, with Kaboul losing the chase with each and every stride, the Hammers striker closed in on Gomes before unleashing a 15-yarder that crashed off the Watford ‘keeper’s right hand upright before ricocheting across goal onto his left post.
But the claret and blue cries of disbelief quickly turned to cheers, when Ayew arrived bang on cue to slide the loose ball into the net from eight yards before wheeling away to celebrate with the visiting fans, who were now singing and dancing in the Watford rain.
Still the drama was not over, though, for the grounded Antonio received a second yellow for scooping the ball away from substitute Isaac Success and then, in the dying moments, Miguel Britos, Feghouli and Success each came within a whisker of stealing a late, late decider but in the end both teams had to be content with a share of the points.
HORNETS: Gomes, Janmaat (Cathcart 52), Britos, Kaboul, Holebas, Behrami, Cleverley, Capoue, Zárate (Doucouré 45+8), Niang (Success 82), Deeney. Unused subs: Arlauskis, Prödl, Zúñiga, Okaka.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Kouyaté, Cresswell, Reid, Fonte, Obiang, Noble, Snodgrass (Ayew 65), Feghouli, Lanzini (Fernandes 90+1), Antonio. Unused subs: Adrián, Collins, Byram, Masuaku, Calleri.
Booked: Janmaat (36), Antonio (45+10), Kouyaté (65), Niang (68), Doucouré (79), Holebas (83).
Sent-Off: Antonio (86).
Referee: Craig Pawson
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.