Report | West Ham 2-0 Watford
The white-knuckle ride the team have taken the fans on this season continued this afternoon after the Hornets followed up the champagne stuff against Chelsea with a somewhat flat performance against West Ham.
The upshot was a disappointing 2-0 defeat, a result that leaves the Hornets still with a bit of work to do before everybody can really start planning for a fourth straight season in the Premier League. A point here really would have been very welcomed, another small step towards safety. It wasn't to be. West Ham were just that bit hungrier, that bit more desperate for a win.
It was always going to be a tough ask to expect this same group of players to scale the dizzy heights they reached against Chelsea and there was a definitely hangover in the first half. Watford were off the pace and West Ham could have been in front long before Chicharito did eventually score on 38 minutes.
Watford, to their credit, had more of a go in the second half, with the positive Javi Gracia making three attacking substitutions, including a debut for Dodi Lukebakio, but they looked a bit toothless in attack and failed to muster any chances of note from open play. It's now more than six hours since Watford scored on the road. West Ham were a bit more clinical and they made the game safe on 78 minutes with a goal from Marko Arnautovic that will not make for pretty viewing when it's reviewed by the team next week.
Gracia now has the full house from his three league matches in charge of the Hornets, a draw, a win and now a defeat, and the Head Coach will be looking forward to the next fortnight without a game so he can further implement his ideas on the training ground and, fingers crossed, get some of his injured players back.
They could have done with freshening things up here but just couldn't as Gracia was down to the bare 17. They looked a bit leggy in the first and a bit at sixes and sevens when the ball was delivered into the box. They certainly couldn't say they weren't given warning before Chicharito headed in the opener.
They needed a save from Karnezis at the near post to stop João Mario on 11 minutes, were a touch fortunate that Chicharito was ruled just offside when heading in a Mario free-kick and then Karnezis denied Arnautovic from point-blank range. As good as Karnezis's save was, and it was very good, Arnautovic really should have scored.
Arnautovic's blushes were spared, however, when Michail Antonio, who had given Daryl Janmaat a tough time every time he got the ball, sped down the left flank and laid one on a plate for Chicharito to plant the ball past Karnezis. He couldn't really miss.
Watford couldn't really get any rhythm going at the other end, the ball just wouldn't drop for them and they couldn't really get Richarlison and Gerard Deulofeu into the game. The best they could muster was a header after six minutes from Adrian Mariappa that forced a flying save from Adrian and then a grass-cutter from Ètienne Capoue that caused a few Hammers' hearts to flutter. That was about it.
The signs were encouraging at start of the second half. The visitors won a free-kick around the edge of the box and then forced the first corner of the half. This was more like it. Sensing a momentum shift, Gracia sought to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and send on Roberto Pereyra for Marvin Zeegelaar and play the Argentine in the No.10 role. No sooner had he come on than Deulofeu forced a flying save from Adrian with a dipping free-kick.
But the Hornets didn't create much else from open play, despite the raft of attacking options on the pitch, and a long-range effort from inside his own half by Capoue, that went out for a throw-in, kind of summed up their afternoon.
January signing Lukebakio was sent on for his first appearance in a Watford shirt with 17 minutes to go but before he even had time to get his bearings, West Ham put the game to bed. Aaron Cresswell smashed one across the face of goal following a corner and it was spilled by Karnezis. The ball took a couple of ricochets before Arnautovic poked it home from close range. It was all very messy. And it was game, set and match to the Hammers.
HORNETS | Karnezis, Prödl, Mariappa, Holebas, Janmaat, Capoue, Doucourè, Zeegelaar (Pereyra 56), Deulofeu (Lukebakio 73), Richarlison (Gray 82), Deeney.
Subs not used: Bachmann, Ndong, Carrillo, Mukena