Brighton 1-3 West Ham: Hammers go TOP of the Premier League with smash-and-grab win as James Ward-Prowse nets his first for the club, with Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio also scoring
- West Ham secured their first victory over Brighton in the Premier League 3-1
- James Ward-Prowse, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio all scored in the matc
- WATCH: It’s All Coming Up – Mail Sport’s preview show for the weekend’s football
David Moyes scowled and jabbered in the ear of his trusted assistant Billy McKinlay then winced as West Ham’s midfield surrendered possession cheaply.
The early season top-of-the-table skirmish with Brighton had just reached the 70th minute and, to look at West Ham’s manager, you would have thought his team were being pulled from pillar to post, particularly as opposite number, Roberto De Zerbi, appeared so sanguine.
Here, though, was a reminder that you should never judge a situation on a small snapshot. This had been a momentary lapse on what had actually been a near perfect day for Moyes and his team, with their visit to the seaside seeing them make waves.
For all that Brighton had started the campaign with a flurry of goals and a raft of gushing headlines, they were flattened by a masterclass in counterattacking football. Moyes can often be gruff and demanding in his technical area but, inside, he would have been dancing a jig.
Many wondered how life after Declan Rice would be for West Ham, whom their boisterous supporters will not tire of telling everyone about last season’s European exploits, but the adjustment is going smoothly and this was a result that will have made many sit-up and take notice.
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From one to 11 and the substitutes added in, West Ham were ruthless and professional and scored some quite beautiful goals. Don’t believe for one minute that this was some kind of smash-and-grab raid: it was the execution of a carefully crafted plan.
True, Brighton played a role in their downfall, the flimsy manner in which they played the opening 60 minutes reminiscent of the night here in May when Everton beat them 5-1: Adam Webster, especially, will have trouble sleeping after his costly errors.
But to pin everything on him would be unfair. West Ham had the players to exploit this, not least the effervescent James Ward-Prowse – an identikit Moyes player if ever there was one – and Jarrod Bowen, the hero of Prague, whose touch and control left you thinking he was wearing ballet shoes.
More on Bowen later but first to Webster, who must have wished the ground could have swallowed him up in the 19th minute, when the contest was turned on its head.
His first ball out of defence was cut out by Ward-Prowse, who immediately chipped a ball for Antonio to scurry after; Webster tried to atone but made a hash of his back pass and, suddenly, alarm bells were ringing.
Michail Antonio charged into Brighton’s area but, rather than shooting, he looked up and saw Ward-Prowse had surged 40 yards to join in; the striker’s square ball put the England international in on goal and though Billy Gilomour initially averted the danger, there would be no reprieve.
Switching his feet deftly, Ward-Prowse side-footed in from six yards and bounded away in delight, his manager an equally animated figure on the touchline. This was nothing more than the visitors had deserved, as they hadn’t given Brighton any opportunity to set the tone.
That is not to say Brighton didn’t have plenty of the ball. They absolutely did. By half-time, the possession statistics were heavily weighted in the hosts’ favour, a colossal 84 per cent to 16 but the old saying was true: the only statistic that really matters is the scoreline.
With their noses in front, West Ham had no intention of being pegged back. Each member of the team knew what was expected, each member of the team was prepared to run and tackle and do the ugly things to keep the advantage.
When Angelo Ogbanna dithered over taking a free-kick, for instance, prompting referee Anthony Taylor to dash over and administer a warning, Moyes – a manager who has never entertained dark arts – went ballistic at his defender for needlessly adding time onto the clock. He wanted focus.
He was getting it, too. Edson Alvarez, recently recruited from Ajax to help fill the Declan Rice void, was a tackling menace, a constant gremlin in Brighton’s attempts to play fluently. One challenge earned the Mexican a yellow card but it was the only blot on his performance.
BRIGHTON: (4-2-3-1) Verbruggen 5: Gross 6, Dunk 6, Webster 4, Estupinan 5: Milner 6, Gilmour 6: March 5, Welbeck 6, Mitoma 5: Ferguson 5.
Subs: Steele (GK), Julio, Dahoud, Pedro, Lallana, Adingra, van Hecke, Veltman, Buonanotte
Goals: Gross (81′)
Coach: Roberto De Zerbi
WEST HAM: (4-3-3) Areola 8: Coufal 7, Zouma 7, Ogbonna 7, Emerson 7: Soucek 6 (Benrahma 39mins 7), Alvarez 8, Ward-Prowse 8: Bowen 8.5, Antonio 8, Paqueta 7.
Subs not used: Fabianski (GK), Johnson, Cresswell, Fornals, Cornet, Ings, Kehrer, Mubama.
Goals: Ward-Prowse (19), Bowen (58), Antonio (63).
Bookings: Ward-Prowse, Alvarez.
Coach: David Moyes
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Venue: Amex Stadium
De Zerbi – who raised eyebrows pre-match by playing Bart Verbruggen in goal, rather than Jason Steele – belatedly got a response from his team and had Evan Ferguson shown more composure in the 46th minute when picked out by Karou Mitoma, the pendulum may have swung the other way.
His header, however, was well saved by the faultless Alphonse Areola and, from there, West Ham took the opportunity to inflict maximum damage, as two goals in five minutes around the hour put them over the line.
The first, from Bowen, was quite brilliant. Antonio clipped a ball up to substitute Said Benrahma on the halfway line, allowing the Algerian to move forward ominously down the left. His cross was perfect but Bowen, who had run 60 yards, produced a touch and finish that was even better.
Bowen would then turn provider, a super pass into Antonio’s feet in the 63rd minute enabling the powerhouse to twist and turn Webster one way then the other before crashing his shot past Verbruggen: game over.
A strike from Pascal Gross in the 84th minute threatened to make things tense but for all Brighton’s late pressure, there was no way past Areola. He was as stubborn as his team as a whole: and at the final whistle, as his fans sang about being top of the league, you knew Moyes was delighted.
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