David Hautzig's Match Report
The last few days in Claret & Blue have been depressing, infuriating, and predictable. All in equal measure. Whatever small level of patience I had for the current regime vanished when I turned out the lights to go to sleep on Wednesday night. The lack of business, and the absurd reasons given for that, insulted the basic intelligence of every West Ham supporter. To use the “no time for a medical” lie two times in a twelve month span is almost psychotic. The Tony Henry story was farcical. Both for the hideous nature of the comments, and the ineptitude of Henry for making them in a world where everything you say can easily be disseminated in seconds. So sitting down to watch the match today felt more like a chore than a pleasure. Whose fault is that? We all know.
West Ham were fortunate not to have Byram enter the referee’s book in the early moments when he delivered a hip check that would have earned rave reviews from my former fellow season ticket holders for The New York Rangers. Bong went down with a bang, but all Brighton got was a set piece that West Ham handled well.
Javier Hernandez admitted yesterday that he had wanted to leave in the recently closed window. I can’t say that I blame him. But I do blame him for a giveaway that led to a quick Brighton counter. Cresswell tried to one up Byram in the ice hockey challenge by tripping Knockaert from behind near the center circle, a tackle that I think could have seen red on another day. The referee played the advantage, and Brighton took full advantage. Gross took the ball from Knockaert and fed Murray alone in the box. The man always seems to score against us, so why not today?
West Ham 0
After the goal, West Ham looked like they wanted to settle down and play for a professional 1-0 loss. Brighton swarmed like a team that knew exactly what they wanted and how they would get it. They sprayed passes around the West Ham penalty area, making both Byram and Cresswell look more than just uncomfortable as wingbacks. The Hammers overall looked like a team that didn’t want to be there. I wanted the whole day to end as quickly as possible.
West Ham had their first real threatening moment of the match in the 25th minute when Cresswell did well to send a cross into the box from a tight area. Byram got to it in front of goal, but his header lacked pace and went more down than forward. Duffy cleared it, and instead of a level scoreline it remained 1-0 to the hosts.
Moments later Brighton thought they had a shout for hand ball. Bong sent a low cross into the box that found Knockaert in front of goal. His one timer went right into Ogbonna’s arm, but Roger East was right there and waved off the penalty claim straight away.
Despite my earlier comments about Chicharito, I’ve never doubted that under the right circumstance Lil Pea could be a valuable asset for us. The 30th minute showed why. Hernandez started an attack with a pass to Noble twenty yards out. The Captain passed it right to Mario in the box, who barely had the ball for a millisecond before feeding Hernandez in the box. Even after his initial opportunity dissipated, Chicharito broke to his right and found the upper left hand corner of the goal.
West Ham 1
The hosts should have regained the lead a minute or so later when Noble and Ogbonna got in each others way trying to clear a cross in the West Ham penalty area. The ball came right to Knockaert in front of goal, but he sent his shot over the bar.
West Ham finished the first half far better than they started it, with Cresswell sending two quality crosses into the box. With a little luck, either Mario or Byram would have scored. Then the visitors earned a free kick on the right side of the Brighton penalty area, followed by a corner. They almost paid for another defensive misstep by Byram that allowed Brighton to break with a pasture of space to work with, but Zabaleta got a crucial toe in to break it up.
West Ham 1
The second half started with a lot of nothing, done very quickly. The ball looked to move up and down the pitch quickly, but with very little purpose. Like everyone had a bit too much coffee during the break. The first opportunity of any kind came in the 59th minute when Rice was forced to put the ball out for a corner. The initial delivery went nowhere. But seconds later, West Ham were struck by lightning for the second time this season when Izquierdo repeated his wonder strike from the 3-0 win at The London Stadium with a curler into the top left corner.
West Ham 1
Brighton were on the attack again in the 67th minute when Schelotto went on a run down the right. His cross found Gross in the box, but the shot went high over the bar to see the chance wasted.
Brighton moved the ball around the West Ham box in the 74th minute, with Izquierdo combining with Gross before the his shot was deflected out for a corner. But a few minutes later, Collins gave the ball away with a bad clearance. Gross took over near the top of the box and sent a low shot past Adrian.
West Ham 1
A few minutes later, Gross was sent in again down the right. Everyone but the German international thought the flag would go up. It didn’t, and it took a fine save from Adrian to prevent Brighton from scoring a fourth.
I wonder if somewhere around the 84th minute, Mario thought to himself “glad it’s only a loan”.
West Ham 1
Not that I had any delusions we would not be dragged back down into a relegation fight, it’s still unpleasant to actually be in it. For real. When the season began, I looked at the two matches against Brighton as six points to be had.
I just had the wrong team.