West Ham United followed up their extra-time victory over National League North side Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday by returning to Premier League action on Tuesday night and earning three points, thanks to a 1-0 win over newly-promoted Watford in Stratford.
David Moyes made three changes from that Emirates FA Cup win, as Vladimír Coufal and Michail Antonio came in for Ben Johnson and Nikola Vlašić, while Łukasz Fabiański returned in goal to take the place of Alphonse Areola.
Despite concerns over Manuel Lanzini’s fitness ahead of the game, he was included in the matchday squad.
With Watford in relegation trouble and West Ham having played 120 minutes of football at the weekend, it was a very slow start to the game. In fact, the Hornets could have grabbed an early advantage through Juraj Kucka but fortunately for the majority inside the stadium, he headed wide following a cross from Hassane Kamara.
It would be fair to say that unlike in the reverse fixture back in December, the visitors had most of the play although they just couldn’t apply the finishing touch. This fact was clearly evident when Moussa Sissoko dragged an opportunity wide of Fabiański’s goal.
West Ham’s first real chance of any note was after Jarrod Bowen set up Saïd Benrahma for the Algerian to then try his luck in front of goal but it was well anticipated by visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster, who managed to get a crucial block in. The rebound luckily fell back to the former Brentford man who turned and shot but he was perhaps a little unfortunate to have hit the post. Had it gone in, it would have been one to remember.
When referee Martin Atkinson blew the whistle for the break, new Hornets Head-Coach Roy Hodgson would have been the happier of the two bosses, as he looked for his side to score their first goal under his stewardship.
Benrahma continued from where he had left off when the action got back underway and he could have opened the scoring when some great linkup play between Coufal, Bowen and Tomáš Souček resulted in the ball falling back into the midfielder’s path but unfortunately, he could only volley over the bar.
Moyes decided to take Benrahma off with an hour gone and throw Lanzini into the fray and that move was to prove an inspired one just eight minutes later.
Yes, the Argentine certainly had the desired impact as he gave possession to Bowen, who found some space to shoot as he benefited from a deflection when the ball hit a defender which wrongfooted the goalkeeper and loud cheers could be heard around the ground.
Fabiański wasn’t given much to do in the match but when he was called into action to make the save from Tom Cleverley, he did so brilliantly, as the former Manchester United youngster could well have equalised.
Bowen was close to extending the home side’s advantage but Foster had obviously seen what Fabiański had done minutes earlier and produced an equally as good a save of his own.
After three minutes of stoppage time were successfully negotiated, Atkinson blew the final whistle which meant West Ham were able to celebrate reaching the 40 point mark and its only their first Premier League game of February!!!
The Irons will hope to do another double on Sunday afternoon, as they face a trip to The King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City.