Watford welcomed struggling West Ham to Vicarage Road for the blockbuster game of ‘Super Sunday’. Despite both sides’ disastrous defensive performances this season they found themselves in starkly different positions going into this game. The Hornets were flying high in ninth place and had established themselves as the highest scoring team outside of the top six. West Ham meanwhile had slipped down into the relegation zone, but the Hammers were hoping that new manager David Moyes could kick start their season, starting with a win in this fixture.
Will Hughes becomes Watford’s unlikely hero
This game marked David Moyes’ 500th appearance as a top-flight manager, but the veteran coach watched Watford dominate the early possession as they settled into what looked set to be a physical game. This sentiment was confirmed within the first five minutes as Hammers striker Andy Carroll caught Marvin Zeegelaar with a flailing elbow, leaving the Dutch defender worse for wear. The presence of Carroll also dictated much of West Ham’s play and long balls were a prominent feature of the opening exchanges.
It was Watford who struck first however after some good link up play between Richarlison and Zeegelaar down the left flank culminated in a speculative cross. It took a great display of strength from striker Andre Gray for the cross to lead to anything, but his exploits allowed Will Hughes to nip in a curl a beautiful finessed finish into the left hand corner. The strike was the midfielder’s first ever goal for Watford, and gave the home side the perfect start to the game. To their credit West Ham responded well to the setback and started to maintain long spells of possession, but the visitors struggled to create anything clear cut in the opening 20 minutes, while Watford looked comfortable holding on to their lead.
Gomes stuns Vicarage Road with several sensational saves
Aside from the goal the game lacked any real moments of quality and was largely defined by a myriad of tense midfield battles. It was when Andy Carroll dropped deep into midfield that the game seemed to liven up, though not so much due to any real quality but more based on his physicality and temperament. On the half hour mark the striker made a cynical off the ball challenge on Richarlison after being dispossessed, and he was perhaps lucky to escape with just a booking, especially considering his careless use of his elbows earlier in the game. The challenge did add an extra spark to the game however and Watford capitalised on the electric atmosphere, with both Richarlison and Femenia going close and forcing Joe Hart into action.
Despite trailing by a goal there were a multitude of occasions where a West Ham player would pick up the ball in a promising position, only to look up and find nobody in a claret and blue shirt showing themselves to receive a pass. The lack of desire seemed to extend to second balls as Watford won every 50-50, and the Hornets looked threatening whenever they did venture forwards.
It was West Ham who had two golden opportunities to grab a goal on the stroke of half time however. Cheikhou Kouyate was slipped in one on one with Heurelho Gomes after some brilliant build up play and it looked for all the world as if the Senegal international would bury the chance, but Watford’s talented Brazilian goalkeeper pulled off a sensational save to deny the Hammers an equaliser. The shot stopper came up trumps again just moments later as he somehow scrambled to an even more remarkable double save to keep out Arnautovic’s efforts, and Marco Silva’s men went into the break with their lead in tact, owing a great debt to the gargantuan Gomes.
Richarlison strikes again for the Hornets
The visitors came out for the second half needing to be quicker both in possession and to close down Watford’s pacey forwards, and the Hammers did look sharper after the break as they began their pursuit of an equaliser once again. Moyes’ players began to show a lot more determination to get to second balls and they dominated the possession in the opening minutes of the second period. Their hard work was almost rewarded when Arnautovic cut the ball back to Kouyate on the edge of the box, but the midfielder squandered another brilliant chance as he skied his first time shot. Up the other end Abdoulaye Doucoure had an eerily similar chance to Kouyate, but the Watford man’s shot flew inches wide of the post, close enough to send alarm bells through the West Ham defence.
The near miss seemed to have a similar effect to the opening goal, throwing the Hammers off their stride and allowing Watford to hold the ball for long spells. The Hornets almost doubled their lead through a close range effort from Adrian Mariappa, but this time it was Joe Hart’s turn to pull off a brilliant reflex save and keep the Hammers in the game. The visitors struggled to get out of their own half as the hour mark approached, with Watford playing confident and fluid football. The spell of utter dominance ultimately led to what felt like an almost inevitable second goal for the home team, courtesy of the classy Brazilian winger Richarlison. It was Will Hughes who provided the assist, threading a through ball to the forward from deep within his own half, and Richarlison slotted a simple left footed finish down low past Hart in the West Ham goal.
Watford wrap up a comfortable victory
Once again the Hammers responded well to conceding a goal, and Manuel Lanzini almost cut the deficit in half immediately with a great driven effort, but Watford were equal to it again and Christian Kabasele made an excellent goal line clearance. Moyes’ side continued to push for a goal as the clock ticked down but they still lacked that clinical edge that would get them over the line. Arnautovic was forced off due to injury late on in the second half, and his creativity was a big loss for a side that leaned so heavily on Lanzini to find a killer pass.
In the end Watford cruised to victory as West Ham struggled to put up much of a fight. For a team that has struggled somewhat at home this season it was brilliant for Watford to register an impressive win in front of their own fans, and the boys in yellow ran out as deserved winners against a frankly abject Hammers team.
The win ended a three game losing streak for Marco Silva’s men, and Watford once again displayed their obvious talent going forwards, with Richarlison continuing his excellent form. On another day West Ham easily could have had three goals of their own, and the Hornets clearly still need to work on their defending. However the style of football on display at Vicarage Road, as well as some of the results they have recorded this season, makes for brilliant viewing not only for Watford fans but also for the neutral.
David Moyes could do little to end West Ham’s slide down the Premier League table, though he has had little time to implement his tactics and style. The result was typical of the Hammers’ season – another shambolic defensive display coupled with a lack of clinical finishing at the other end of the pitch. The former Everton manager has a lot to work on with his players, principally restoring confidence and determination in a squad that is growing accustomed to being on the wrong end of the score line.
Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia (Holebas, 87’), Cleverley, Doucoure, Zeegelaar; Hughes (Pereyra, 84’), Richarlison; Gray (Carrillo, 90+7)
West Ham: Hart; Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble, Kouyate, Obiang; Arnautovic (Masuaku, 74’), Lanzini, Carroll (Sakho, 66’)
Goals: Hughes (1-0, 11’), Richarlison (2-0, 64’)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Yellow Cards: Carroll (28’), Britos (30’), Arnautovic (35’), Obiang (41’)
Red Cards: None
Watford: Gomes 9; Mariappa 7, Kabasele 8, Britos 7; Femenia 7 (Holebas n/a), Cleverley 7, Doucoure 8, Zeegelaar 8; Hughes 9 (Pereyra n/a), Richarlison 9; Gray 7 (Carrillo n/a)
West Ham: Hart 5; Zabaleta 6, Reid 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Noble 6, Kouyate 6, Obiang 6; Arnautovic 5 (Masuaku 5), Lanzini 6, Carroll 4 (Sakho 5)