West Ham United ended 2021 by earning their first away win of since 31 October with a 4-1 win against newly-promoted Watford on Tuesday afternoon. As a result, the victory means that the Hammers also picked up their first three points since the triumph over Chelsea on 4 December.
Declan Rice was suspended for this game, meaning that Mark Noble replaced him and took the Captain’s armband, while Pablo Fornals was out having contracted Coronavirus so Manuel Lanzini took his place. David Moyes made two other changes as Ben Johnson and Michail Antonio came in for Arthur Masuaku and Nikola Vlašić, who both dropped to the bench after starting the home encounter against Southampton just forty eight hours earlier.
It would have been hard for the Irons to be as flat as they were against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side two days ago, whereas Claudio Ranieri’s men had not been in action since the 2-1 defeat at fellow promoted side Brentford back on 10 December.
Although it was a much better start from the visitors, the Hornets went in front after just four minutes when Emmanuel Dennis got the better of visiting defender Craig Dawson, who was making his first return to his former club, following his permanent switch to East London last summer and the Nigerian’s effort flew past goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański in West Ham’s goal.
After the hosts had opened the scoring, the East Londoners were in complete control. Jarrod Bowen then received possession from Tomáš Souček’s mishit attempt but the former Hull City winger took too long and he ended up sending the ball wide.
Saïd Benrahma combined to devastating effect with Antonio as the visitors were still looking for a quick response and they were close to finding one. The Algerian hit the bar with home stopper Daniel Bachmann beaten.
The travelling contingent were enjoying their afternoon as the away side were in no mood to give up. Evidence of this was shown when Bowen was denied twice in quick succession, as both Moussa Sissoko and Craig Cathart blocked his route to goal. Before Bowen’s second try, Antonio also got in on the act but there was no way through for him either.
Another chance came and went for the Irons, as Benrahma met Antonio’s corner with his head and forced Bachmann to punch clear before former Manchester United defender Cathart managed to get in front of Antonio to prevent Bowen’s pass from finding the former Nottingham Forest player.
They finally equalised when Souček beat Bachmann with an excellent half-volley, thanks to more great play from Bowen.
Shortly after, Moyes saw his men turn the game around when Benrahma added to his goal against the Saints after Antonio had motored down the pitch to set up the former Brentford man and he sent the ball past Bachmann and into the net.
Ranieri was desperate for his side to get back level and they almost did with forty minutes gone but Adam Masina’s header failed to trouble Fabiański after Cucho Hernández had crossed into the box.
West Ham were continuing to play well as it became clear that the home side were unable to cope with their opponents. Benrahma was proving a real threat as he raced past Juraj Kucka but was unable to play in Lanzini.
At the end of December 2020, West Ham started an unbeaten run which continued into the start of this current year and when referee Darren England blew the whistle for the break, they were hoping that after their recent run of form, they could also end 2021 on a high.
When the action restarted, the visitors were keen to expose more of Watford’s weaknesses and they were on their case again right from minute one.
A great move involving Antonio and Lanzini saw the lone striker stay up with the play, as he was involved again when he played Bowen in from Souček’s cross and the man from Herefordshire finished the chance off. Those who were at the game against Southampton on Boxing Day would have endured a lengthy VAR check to see if Antonio’s goal would stand. On that occasion, the Hammers’ fans were relieved but they were to be disappointed here, as the system had overturned England’s original decision and the scoreline remained as it was.
Fabiański went for a long time without having much to do but when Sissoko tested him in the second-half, he made a great save to prevent the Hornets from finding a way back into the game.
Antonio pounced on some slack play from the hosts as he picked up Francisco Sierralta’s loose ball but nothing came of the chance.
Another defensive mixup from the hosts ended up with Bowen being brought down by Bachmann. The referee initially awarded a corner, only for VAR to go in favour of the East Londoners this time and award them a penalty. Club Captain Noble, who was making his first Premier League start of the season, stepped up and beat Bachmann with ease.
Watford were in need of a goal if they were going to stand any chance of getting back into this game and Joshua King fired an effort towards goal but thankfully, Fabiański was on hand to deal with his powerful effort before he then tried his luck again minutes later but it was the same result and the Hammers survived.
On eighty two minutes, Moyes made his first change bringing on Masuaku for Johnson, before making a second just three minutes later by introducing Vlašić in place of Benrahma.
Antonio should have wrapped up the points for his side but unfortunately he wasn’t able to find the net and Bachmann saved from close-range. However, minutes later, Vlašić spared his teammates blushes, as he opened his account for the club after Bowen had set him up perfectly.
West Ham’s last substitution was made just before the ninety minutes had elapsed, as the Irons’ boss replaced Lanzini with Alex Král.
Fabiański had to make two smart saves as the game was deep into the five minutes of stoppage time that were signalled but in the end, the East Londoners had secured the win that moves them back up to fifth place in the table ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park for the late kick-off on New Year’s Day.