David Hautzig's Match Report
That damn game at the London Stadium in September was the most annoying match in years. Other games have been more infuriating. Any number of Spurs matches, Chelsea away last year, almost every match under Moron Grant. But Watford at home was annoying. Like a bug bite. It took months for it to go away. And I wanted to beat them today something fierce. Simply put, Watford don’t deserve to spend a summer enjoying two wins against us. Maybe that’s unfair. Too bad. I was in no mood for fair today. And while I think we were worth more than a draw today, the game itself not only earned a it made a point.
As the match previews showed Zarate, we all knew that somehow he would play a part in a moment that would annoy us. We just didn’t think it would happen in the second minute. Deeney retrieved a long pass from Cleverley and rolled the ball to Zarate in the box. Despite being known as possibly the most versatile player in our squad, Kouyate has shown that right back is not his preferred position. And that’s putting it mildly. A clumsy challenge on the former Hammer brought him down, Pawson pointed at the spot, supporters worldwide continued to wonder how on earth we never signed a right back, and Deeney did the rest.
West Ham 0
The mistake so early was made more annoying by the work West Ham did right after the goal. They closed down well and pressed with a purpose. Antonio worked the ball down the left and sent a dangerous low cross in that was deflected away by Holebas. No defensive mistake and we would have been feeling pretty good. Huge defensive mistake and we were chasing the game before it really started.
Antonio won a free kick from a reasonably dangerous position in the 17th minute, but Snodgrass’s effort was too low and too slow. Minutes later, Feghouli picked Holebas’s pocket and fed Snodgrass in the box. He should have drilled it, and if he had he might have scored, but instead he side footed it and Kaboul was able to get a foot in the way and send it out for a corner.
West Ham continued to enjoy the majority of the possession, with Snodgrass, Antonio, and Feghouli all using there pace and skill to ask a few questions of Watford. Antonio won a corner, Feghouli whipped in a superb cross that would have earned West Ham a corner if not for an Antonio foul on Janmaat, and Lanzini made a good run down the left that ended with an easy save by Gomes. In the 30th minute Antonio out muscled Kaboul in the area to win yet another corner, but it was wasted. Questions? Yes. University level? More like grade school, so the students at Watford Elementary weren’t bothered at all.
The visitors wasted another opportunity in the 37th minute when Antonio made one of his freight train runs down the left. Janmaat determined the brick wall approach was his best bet and slammed into the onrushing Antonio, giving West Ham a free kick just outside the box. But Lanzini sent his free kick over the bar instead of into the danger area. With five minutes left in the half, West Ham had sent ten crosses into the box to Watford’s one. The ideas were there. The execution was nowhere to be found.
In the 41st minute, Antonio showed his deft side with a little flick over the head of Britos, which amounted to a pass to himself. His shot was blocked out for a corner, and the corner was of course wasted. Which I’m guessing didn’t surprise anyone at the time.
West Ham should have equalized in first half stoppage time when Feghouli and Cresswell combined on the left. Cresswell took a low shot that Gomes couldn’t keep hold of, but with the ball right in front of Snodgrass he couldn’t get a touch on it and Watford cleared. To be fair, if West Ham had scored there might have been a bit of controversy because Zarate was lying in a near fetal position clutching his knee. The stoppage was so long it turned out to be the longest first half in the league this season, and Zarate’s season unfortunately looks to be over. Pawson was right to allow the game to continue, but more EPL officiating talk would have been front and center if the halftime score had been one all.
West Ham 0
West Ham began the second half on the front foot, just as they had been most of the first half, and in the 50th minute the man who gave away the penalty early in the first half should have won one back early in the second. Kouyate tried to chase down a pass on the right side of the Watford box but looked to have been pulled down by Niang. Pawson didn’t see it that way, and from my vantage point the home side looked to have gotten away with one.
In the 59th minute, Lanzini tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck when he ran across the box from right to left and sent a low pass back across the face of goal. It was a short race between Gomes and Antonio as to who would get there first, and Gomes won. The dynamic was pretty clear. The side up one allowed the opponent to control the game while hanging on to their lead.
In the 61st minute, West Ham won another free kick just outside the box. The delivery from Snodgrass was better, and the ball found its way to Fonte. The January signing forced a good save by Gomes with a header destined to find the top corner.
Slaven Bilic made his first substitution in the 65th minute when he inserted Ayew and removed Snodgrass. We’ve questioned our manager’s substations all season, and I’m guessing that pattern continued. We have done reasonably well on set pieces all season. To remove our new main delivery man seemed odd.
In the 69th minute, West Ham should have scored. Cresswell whipped in a cross that Antonio headed wide, despite being in front of goal. Alone. Maybe five feet out. His header would been brilliant had he been a central defender clearing the ball from danger. He likely assumed Britos would clear, and when it got by the Watford defender he wasn’t prepared to finish the chance. An actual striker would certainly have buried it. But that point has been made ad nauseum.
In the 73rd minute, what was both inevitable based on the run of play and unlikely based on us being us, West Ham scored. Ayew sent Antonio to the races with a header that the makeshift striker was able to chase down. His shot beat Gomes. It hit the near post. Then it hit the far post. Then it ricocheted into the center of the box, and low and behold Ayew was there. He calmly slotted it home, and it was time to either close up shop with a point or go for all three.
West Ham 1
It continued to be West Ham on the attack, and in the 83rd minute Lanzini was brought down by Holebas just outside the Watford penalty area. Cresswell’s delivery might make a highlight film of Worst Delivery Of The Year. It was that bad.
The question of what West Ham will do the rest of the match was answered in the 86th minute when Antonio was shown a second yellow and thus a red card for a deliberate handball. So despite Watford barely having a look at Randolph the whole of the second half, the game was there for the taking against a ten man West Ham. And moments after the sending off, Britos was able to get his head on the end of a Watford corner but his attempt went wide.
Despite playing with ten men, the Hammers came close to a second of their own when Cresswell sent a cross that Feghouli had in his sights at the far corner of the Watford goal. If Holebas hadn’t gotten his head there first to send the ball out for a West Ham corner it would have been the visitors celebrating a late, possible winner.
You gotta love the names of characters in movies. They always have totally unrealistic but truly awesome names. Mason Dixon and Clubber Lang in the 638 Rocky films come to mind. I don’t know any football films like that, but tell me Success wouldn’t do the job? In the final moments of the match, West Ham defending for their lives, Deeney flicked the ball towards a diving Randolph. It skipped by the West Ham keeper and into the path of the Success. The dramatic music sounded. The slow motion sounds of the home supporters starting to roar. Cue the star!
The man could have sneezed and the force of whatever flew out of his nostrils might have been enough to push the ball in. Instead, his screen name changed to Failure.
West Ham 1
Two points in two matches that we should have or at least could have won without a striker or a right back is not something to necessarily celebrate, but it isn’t something to lament either. I doubt the founders of my country would ever have anticipated the words we hold these truths to be self evident would be used about a football club in the country they wanted no part of anymore. Hey, I love it there. Flying over on Thursday to go to the Chelsea match. But if there ever was a match that encapsulated the argument that we desperately need a proper right back and dependable striker options, it was today. The early Watford penalty might not have happened if an actual right back was defending Zarate in the box. Furthermore, if Sakho or Carroll were marauding in the box when all of those crosses rained in my money says a couple would have ended up in the back of the net. Yet am I confident these issue will finally be addressed?
I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.