Premier League
West Ham United 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 3

Saturday, 1st February 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United threw away three precious points this afternoon as a 3-1 lead was all but given away, the game ending 3-3 in dramatic fashion.

With everything seemingly under control, the West Ham backline imploded, absolutely gifting two goals to a Brighton team that were floundering, before VAR found conclusive evidence where there was none to overturn Glenn Murray's disallowed goal, a handball spotted by referee Michael Oliver deemed to have been seen in error.

In a game that at one stage saw there above Brighton, Bournemouth and Aston Villa, the result instead sends them into the bottom three.


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It should all have been so different, West Ham absolutely dominant for large periods of the game. Brighton played nicely and always had a threat, but simply struggled to deal with the aggression shown by the home side, Moyes's men favouring faster and more sudden attacks compared to Brighton's ability to construct crafted passages of play.

That was the pattern of the first half, and a good part of the second. Fortune favoured the home side in the former; it shined on the visitors later.

Hope finally warmed the hearts of the weary West Ham faithful, with Antonio returning to cause havoc, a new signing showing almost everything the midfield had been lacking and goals being scored.

It nearly started with deflation, Aaron Mooy missing a great chance within two minutes. The age-old problem of midfielders allowing Aaron Cresswell to defend the man on the ball and the man on the overlap, the two combining to easily beat him and then cross for an unmarked Mooy in the middle. His header should not have gone wide.

If that worried the locals, Soucek was calming them. Even missing a decent opportunity from a set piece only gave fans the hope he may be adding an aerial threat the side has lacked.

The debut boy was doing it all right, working hard to defend and attack, making runs into the box and battling with strength to dispossess Brighton's hardworking midfielders.

The scales tipped back and forth, that slick Brighton passing finding openings for Trossard and Murray that were both wasted, whilst West Ham's more direct and quick approach forcing a lot of fouls for Snodgrass to ready his crossing boots.

It was another of these situations that saw the deadlock broken.

Antonio was hauled down on the left, opening up another crossing position. Snodgrass took responsibility and delivered a lower ball behind the Brighton line on the edge of the box. Few moved early and stopped, but the late run of Diop was poorly defended and the Frenchman flew into the area and met the bounce of the ball in full stretch. Toes pointing, the defender got there with a strong poke, directing the ball goalward and watching it fly past Ryan into the back of the Brighton net with 30 minutes gone.

It lifted the stadium, a pressure floating away, instead landing on the Brighton players who lost their rhythm and threat.


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West Ham looked to turn the screw. Noble and Ogbonna led the slowest counter attack imaginable before the captain air-kicked in a good position to waste one chance.

Not long after, some beautiful one-touch passing ended with a goal bound Antonio effort blocked heroically in front of goal.

The balanced first half was ending with the home side flying, and things only got better on the stroke of half time.

Snodgrass played a simple ball into the path of a Fredericks overlap and the full back took advantage, dinking in a high cross towards Antonio and Haller. It panicked the defence, who headed away weakly.

Soucek moved aside as Snodgrass bounded towards it, volley sweetly towards the bottom corner. It looked on target and dangerous, but doubt was removed by the boot of Webster as the centre back diverted it into his own net and gave West Ham a two-goal lead as the half ended.

With fans now looking to other results and what three points could do for our safety push, the West Ham defence came out from their break with bubbles to burst.

Some won't have returned to their seats as a Brighton corner flew inches over the heads of two defenders before Fabianski - either put off by the presence of Murray or shocked to see the ball reach him - slapped the ball into the back of Ogbonna a yard away from him and could only watch as it ricochet into the goal behind him.

It gave Brighton hope they hadn't had to earn, the impetus of the game now with them as they looked to equalise.

They couldn't, and that the game turned back in West Ham's favour was almost solely down to the threat of Antonio, his pace and power scaring defenders like it has in nearly every wild and sadly too rare appearance this season.

He danced, wriggled and forced his way through and round players to create space and chaos in the Brighton ranks, bringing Haller to life and forming that effective partnership once again.


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After another moment of Antonio magic forcing a corner, West Ham got their two-goal cushion back.

The corner itself was cleared easily, but only to the figure of Snodgrass on the edge of the area. Moving slightly away from goal, the Scot decided to take on the bouncing ball anyway, striking powerfully towards goal.

Fortune favoured the brave once more, this time Bernardo ducking his head at it and just deflecting it way beyond his already diving goalkeeper and into the net for another big break for the Hammers.

Things started to look hopeful once more.

With that two goal lead and the momentum all with West Ham, the home side took control. Soucek stopped joining the attack, instead showing the muscle required for the defensive work in midfield.

The side retreated, leaving Haller and Antonio to attack mostly alone. As more time went on, that became just Antonio as the Frenchman dropped to the left more often to support the defence.

It was clear that the last 25 minutes were to be seen out, the lead protected not necessarily extended.

Brighton made changes, Solly March coming on and almost instantly drawing a good save by Fabianski from the edge of the area.

It seemed to be enough to make Moyes act. His decision will be rightly questioned.

Off came Antonio, arguably both tiring but also the only threat. On came Masuaku, the team going to a back five and accepting their role as a defence until the finish.


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A minute later, Moyes was given the evidence of his folly.

The substitute attempted a risky pass from his left back position across the path of a Brighton attacker. It flew off him and floated harmlessly to Ogbonna and Diop.

It'll take analysts a long time to work out why things went so wrong them there.

Both men assumed the other would deal with the ball, both under no pressure and with time to make many choices.

Ogbonna's choice was to ignore it. This forced Diop into making a new choice, as he had also hoped to choose blissful ignorance. Instead he panicked, now under pressure from Pascal Gross, and chose a diving header back to Fabianski. It didn't make it back, instead landing in a no man's land that Gross made it to first, the midfielder alive enough to get to the ball and poke it through the desperate Fabianski.

This time, Brighton were handed the impetus and had 15 minutes to use it. It took only another three minutes to have the ball in the back of the net once more.

Down their right, neat play and an overlapping run saw the ball crossed from the right and to Glenn Murray at the backpost.

The ball appeared to strike his arm, and as Murray played on and guided it into the goal, his celebration was cut short as referee Michael Oliver called for handball.

VAR burst to life, playing two angles over and over that made it rather unclear as to whether torso or arm had controlled the ball for the veteran striker.

With images inconclusive, VAR defaulted to its now standard position: make an instinctual call. Conclusive be damned: Oliver was overturned, Murray was given his goal and West Ham had 10 minutes to come back to life and maybe cling on to the one point they now desperately needed, and that they'd have never settled for five minutes earlier.


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The visitors had two more chances before the manager reacted, with Fabianski saving one and the side-netting hit by the other.

Lanzini and Fornals came on, Moyes sacrificing the other best threat his side had had as Snodgrass was taken off and Soucek's debut ended. Noble, out on his feet by the hour mark, was to get another 90 minutes.

It did nothing, in truth. Both played as deep wingers, pinned back and unable to make the runs to support desperate clearances to Haller.

Instead, Fabianski proved hero once more as March fired a freekick near the top corner and forced the Pole into flying action.

The final whistle went, boos rang round the ground and the six-pointer that West Ham had to win was thrown down the drain.

At the finish, individual errors were the key talking point. Two goals were entirely self-destructive, the third even highlighting just how poor defensively Arthur Masuaku can be, let alone the VAR controversy.

But others will point to the negativity in the dugout. Could Antonio have played five or ten minutes more?

Had the side had to go deeper and deeper to protect the lead even before his withdrawal?

Could he have been replaced by a more forward thinking player, rather than a change of system and a reversion to five at the back even with a two-goal lead?

It had been a draw snatched from the jaws of victory. West Ham had shot themselves in the foot, the bigger problem the feeling that Moyes had loaded the gun.


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Positives quickly eradicated, as did hope. The forthcoming fixtures are much discussed and well known: this was a big chance to get a win on the board whilst we could.

Hard games now come thick and fast, and wins are needed to keep this side afloat. The win would have seen them in fifteenth, but instead they sit in the bottom three, a point below Aston Villa and two behind both Bournemouth and Brighton.

More worryingly, the next win looks a long way away, and the relegation rivals have winnable fixtures in the meantime.

If this game is anything to go by, we'll continue to be the ones to condemn ourselves.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Redeemed himself somewhat with some good saves, but the own goal was definitely his error and it must be asked whether communication from a goalkeeper might have stopped Ogbonna and Diop bringing the circus to town.


Ryan Fredericks
When making quick decisions going forward, he provides far better product. In the first half he was impressive in the Brighton half. Was he not allowed to do that in the second?


Aaron Cresswell
Even without the collapse, he wasn't having an impact on the game. He seems to get left isolated more than Fredericks. Quite unsure why Noble was moved to the left of the midfield, having been on the right side with Zabaleta, he now combined with Cresswell to ensure the left got to have the slowest pairing.


Issa Diop
Another game with errors. He's part of all three goals conceded: the first he seems to duck the corner; the second with Ogbonna was a horrible example of his defensive ineptitude; the third goal he is close to the cross but makes no effort to cut it out. Hero to villain.


Angelo Ogbonna
His worst performance of the season. The second goal was primarily his fault, the ball was definitely his to control. Whilst he couldn't stop the ball hitting him for the own goal, the defending was a mess. Second half, he lost control.


Declan Rice
A good first half defensively, some bright passing in the second half. A sign that Soucek helped the midfield balance is that Rice wasn't having to do everything. However, he also couldn't get any control in there when the game turned desperate.


Mark Noble
His influence in the game just waned and waned. He looked tired after 55 minutes and yet he finished the game. He then just drifted, always a step behind the action, and could not stop Brighton pouring forward. Slightly set up to fail as he couldn't match the pace as time wore on, but again was forced to finish a game.


Tomas Soucek
Impressive until he went quiet in the second half. He looked to make the team work, suddenly bringing balance. Strong, full of running, but also neat in his passing and clever with one touch layoffs. Got close to Haller, the first central midfielder to do that since September. A real positive.


Robert Snodgrass
All the luck went his way individually, but he earned it. Bravery with the ball, with his work ethic and positioning. He made sure he got there to hit that volley for the second, his set pieces were regularly dangerous and the first goal was down to his brilliant delivery. The third never should have been hit yet was done so excellently. Little more he could do and he may well be the real key to West Ham's chances of survival.


Michail Antonio
How hard must that have been to watch for him as he sat on the bench and watched them burn down what he'd built. Antonio was the threat, at times carrying a deflated side and forcing them onto the front foot. Brought players to life, especially Haller.


Sebastien Haller
7/10 with Antonio, who he clearly enjoys playing with and can use to good effect. 5/10 once he was gone, at which point everyone let him do that standing up front alone thing that has never worked well for West Ham ever. Linked with Antonio and has the brains and skills to make the side better once he has help. It was all taken away from him and that's when he suffered. So did West Ham.



Substitutes

Arthur Masuaku
(Replaced Antonio) All he did was contribute to the downfall of his side. Stupid pass to try, which lead to West Brom's second, then slow and ill-disciplined to match the runner on their third.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Snodgrass) The wrong substitution and a poor one. Fornals may as well not have been there, although the few minutes he got meant he barely was.


Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Soucek) Like Fornals, it was too late and then he came in as basically a defender. Didn't work, was the wrong call and somewhat pointless.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Pablo Zabaleta
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Albian Ajeti
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: Issa Diop 30 Robert Snodgrass 45 Robert Snodgrass 57              .

Booked: Angelo Ogbonna 0          .

Sent off: None.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Montoya (Schelotto 72), Dunk, Webster, Bernardo, Stephens, Propper, Trossard, Gross, Mooy (March 72), Murray.

Subs not used: Button, Connolly, Alzate, Jahanbakhsh, Maupay.

Goals: Ogbonna (og 47), Gross (75), Murray (79).

Booked: Stephens.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Attendance: 59,952.

Man of the Match: Robert Snodgrass.