Coming into this match, West Ham needed to dominate and get three points. A tail of two halves would prove that no lead is safe and that Premier League survival isn’t either.
The team selection showed a lot of positives for West Ham. Michail Antonio and Ryan Fredericks were both back in the starting XI, Tomas Soucek got his Hammers and Premier League debut, and the team was set up in a 4-3-3 formation. All positive and first half reflected this.
The Brighton team held onto the ball a lot more in the first half, but Soucek’s physical presence in the midfield helped keep the Gulls contained and out of the dangerous areas. Other than a close call on an early Aaron Mooy header, Brighton were fairly benign in their attack and the Hammers jumped on it.
Antonio’s pace was causing problems for the Brighton back-four and a foul that led to a free-kick from Robert Snodgrass was converted by a diving Issa Diop who poked the ball past a diving Mat Ryan in goal. 30 minutes in and the Hammers were up and looking to add to their lead.
This came by way of a Robert Snodgrass goal in the dying seconds of the first half. Some great linkup play between McMessi and Ryan Fredericks saw a cleared cross land on Snodgrass’ feet where he banged the half-volley off a defender and in. The whistle would blow just after the re-start and the Hammers were cruising going into the second half.
More from Green Street Hammers - West Ham
- West Ham: Three quickfire changes before the Liverpool match
- West Ham: Simplify the tactics and work on the basics
- West Ham: The Gaffer has put Pablo Fornals on a missing persons alert
- West Ham: Disappointing Player Grades for Rescheduled City Match
- Match Review: West Ham only lose by a little, so job done?
Brighton clearly got the message from Graham Potter in the changeroom because the Gulls came out flying. Early pressure would see a corner kick awarded and an agitated Lukasz Fabianski would punch the ball off Angelo Ogbonna‘s head and into the back of the net in the 47th minute. No one was marking Glenn Murray, who was pushing on Fabianski, and no one got to the delivery either. The bad punch gave Brighton a way back into this match.
West Ham would weather the momentum-fuelled storm from Brighton and earn a corner kick ten minutes later. Snodgrass ceded the setpiece to Aaron Cresswell whose out-swinging ball deflected out of the box where it was met by a thunderous strike by Snodgrass. The two-goal lead was restored yet again and the Hammers looked to be cruising.
The game seemed to be under control, but a double switch from Brighton would see Ezequiel Schelotto come on at right-back and Solly March in the midfield which changed the complexion of the game entirely. Subsequentially, Michail Antonio’s race was run and David Moyes opted for a switch to a back-five with Arthur Masuaku replacing him, to preserve the lead.
Masuaku’s first touch in the game would get blocked and led to a laughable miscommunication from Ogbonna and Diop. With neither wanting to play the ball, Pascal Gross jumped on the opportunity and poked it past a hung out to dry Fabianski to bring the game back within one goal in the 75th minute.
More attacking my Schelotto down the right-wing, fully taking advantage of Masuaku and Cresswell not knowing how to play in a back-five, would see a leveling goal come off of awful close-down defending and two missed tackles by Ryan Fredericks. A VAR check over what looked to be a handball would show that Glenn Murray’s goal was perfectly fine and Brighton had their leveler in the 79th minute.
Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals were introduced in the game to try and spark a comeback, but neither had an impact. Fornals never touched the ball and Lanzini refused to run, couldn’t make a pass, and give up possession because his footballing sense appears to be almost all gone.
The game would end level and this essentially damns West Ham to an extremely gritty relegation battle for the rest of the season. Three points would have put the Hammers in 15th place with a solid leg up on the bottom three. As it stands now, the Hammers are 18th with a -13 differential. The point is good but three were needed and were nearly had. Architects of their own demise, West Ham were atrociously bad in the second half.