GOAL: Marko Arnautovic
WEST HAM victories are seldom this routine, but a 2-0 defeat of Watford was warmly welcomed after a tempestuous week in these parts. Javier Hernandez capped an ascendant first half display for the hosts with a well-taken header and man of the match Marko Arnautovic ended Watford’s meek second half resistance with his seventh goal of the season.
A week after travelling West Ham fans at Brighton called for the board to be sacked, the locals were united from start to finish in their acclaim for this win.
There was plenty of talk about Watford’s confidence coming into this contest following their 4-1 thrashing of champions Chelsea on Monday night but their performance here looked like that of a club with eight defeats in their last 11 matches.
New manager Javi Gracia still has plenty of work on his hands, which cannot be masked by one eye-catching result.
The visitors failed to land a glove on West Ham, whose injury problems have eased somewhat in recent days. David Moyes welcomed back Arnautovic for the first time in three games and was able to start the Austrian alongside Joao Mario and Michail Antonio for the first time.
Antonio, to the bemusement of some at the London Stadium, started at left wing-back. It was from there that he was able to launch the foray that ended with the ball in the back of Orestis Karnezis’ net.
The marauding West Ham man beat Daryl Janmaat and swung the ball in for Hernandez to head the opening goal.
It was no more than West Ham deserved. Hernandez had been denied just moments earlier when his effort was ruled out for a marginal offside decision.
Gerard Deulofeu had sparkled in Watford’s defeat of Chelsea under the lights on Monday night but took the Spaniard and co. until the second half to exert any meaningful influence.
For all that, Adrian was never troubled in the West Ham goal and Watford were ultimately made to pay for their toothlessness when the hosts took advantage of a moment of calamitous defending to score their second.
Watford failed to clear their lines at a corner and Jose Holebas hit his clearance straight into Aaron Cresswell. The ball ricocheted off the defender into the path of Arnautovic, who quickly adjusted his feet and made no mistake from close range. That was that on a wet afternoon in east London.
West Ham enjoyed their first league victory in four matches and first clean sheet in this competition since December 16.
The three points moved them level on points with their Hertfordshire opponents and brings Moyes momentary relief in the heavily congested bottom half of the Premier League table.
But as Watford’s mixed fortunes this week show, neither team can afford to relax for too long.
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