|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
West Ham take huge step towards safety and push Watford closer to danger
Jacob Steinberg at the London Stadium
Date Published Fri 17 Jul 2020 21.59 BST
It is no use waking up at half-time when Premier League survival is on the line. These are the contests that demand maximum intensity from the first whistle to last and West Ham were far more equipped than Watford to handle the pressure, moving within touching distance of safety after sweeping their relegation rivals aside with a scintillating first-half attacking display.
West Ham were solid, powerful and clinical when it mattered. Watford were the exact opposite: slow to react and short of fight. It was an atrocious effort from Nigel Pearson’s side and although they remain three points above Bournemouth and Aston Villa, they risk replacing one of those teams in the bottom three if they defend this badly in their final two games.
At which point – deep breath – these are Watford’s remaining fixtures: Manchester City at home on Tuesday and Arsenal away on the final day. Alarm bells are ringing. Watford have lost their previous two encounters with City by an aggregate of 14-0 and their goal difference is already under threat after taking a few dents from West Ham, who rose six points clear of the bottom three thanks to goals from Michail Antonio, Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice in the first half.
“I didn’t think we were resilient enough,” Pearson said. “It was not what I would expect from us. Whether that is the pressure of the situation, who knows. Now we have to find good performances in the last two games. We missed an opportunity. We haven’t done what we talked about doing. It’s annoying.”
Watford deserved nothing despite a belated rally. They were timid without Étienne Capoue in midfield, shambolic at the back and incapable of containing West Ham’s attackers, who ripped the game away from the visitors inside the first 10 minutes. “The big thing was to get a win and get ourselves up the table,” David Moyes said. “It’s not got us completely safe but it’s got us in a really good position. We’ve done a good job.”
It was too good for Watford, who allowed West Ham to take charge from the start. There were only six minutes on the clock when Antonio delivered the latest example of his improved finishing, collecting a flick from Pablo Fornals before firing past Ben Foster for his seventh goal since the resumption of the season.
You might have expected Watford to pay close attention to Antonio given that nobody in the division has scored more than the forward since lockdown. Yet they were not alive to the threat from a player who put four past Norwich last weekend and they were just as dozy when Jarrod Bowen crossed for Soucek, who rose unchallenged to head home.
There was no resistance as the Czech midfielder collected his third goal since joining West Ham in January. Soucek has been a smart addition from Moyes, who is entitled to feel he is on the right track. West Ham suddenly have a solid core; foundations to build on if they stay up.
Bowen, another good January signing, impressed on the right and West Ham pulled clear nine minutes before the interval. Rice drove inside and let fly from 25 yards. The ball swerved past Foster; a fine way for Rice to open his account for the campaign.
Watford were out early for the second half and Adrian Mariappa was on for Adam Masina, who paid for failing to deal with Bowen. West Ham crept back, inviting pressure. After 49 minutes Abdoulaye Doucouré went past Ben Johnson, a 20-year-old right-back starting for the first time since making his debut in February 2019, before beating Angelo Ogbonna. The midfielder’s shot came back off the post and Troy Deeney finished the rebound.
Watford roared, like a Sunday League team shaking off the hangover. Yet West Ham, led by Mark Noble on his 500th appearance for the club, steadied themselves. They are almost home and dry. Watford, however, are in danger of sinking.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS AND LEAGUE TABLE
WEST HAM UNITED (4-3-2-1): Fabianski 6; Johnson 6.5, Diop 6.5, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 6.5; Rice 8, Noble 6.5, Soucek 7.5; Bowen 7.5 (Yarmolenko 81min), Fornals 6.5 (Haller 72, 6); Antonio 7 (Balbuena 90)
Subs not used: Lanzini, Anderson, Masuaku, Randolph, Wilshere, Coventry
Goalscorers: Antonio 6, Soucek 10, Rice 36
Manager: David Moyes 7.5
WATFORD (4-2-3-1): Foster 5; Femenia 5.5, Kabasele 5.5, Dawson 5.5, Masina 3.5 (Mariappa 46, 5.5); Cleverley 6, Hughes 6; Sarr 7, Doucoure 7 (Chalobah 72, 6), Welbeck 6 (Pedro 86); Deeney 7 (Gray 67, 6)
Subs not used: Pereyra, Pussetto, Gomes, Quina, Cathcart
Goalscorer: Deeney 49
Booked: Cleverley, Hughes
Manager: Nigel Pearson 5.5.
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6.5