West Ham effectively ensured their Premier League safety on Friday evening as they stormed to a 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Watford.
David Moyes’ side began bright and needed just five minutes to open the scoring through Michail Antonio, and it was 2-0 just four minutes later when Tomáš Souček again made the most of his height to head home. Watford tried to grow back into the game, but Declan Rice’s long-range screamer ten minutes before the break looked to kill all hope of a comeback.
So, when Watford scored through Troy Deeney just three minutes after the interval, it created a bit of a nervy atmosphere. The Hornets grew into the game but failed to make their dominance count, and the game began petering out by around the 75th minute. West Ham, who were too good at the back throughout, simply stood firm and sauntered to victory.
Key Talking Point
It’s pretty much job done for West Ham. They’re now six points clear of the drop zone with just two games to go (and deservedly so), and their superior goal difference means that only a spectacular collapse could see them tumble down now.
Moyes’ men turned their post-lockdown form around with that 3-2 win over Chelsea, and they haven’t looked back. Antonio and Souček have both stepped up to lead West Ham to safety, and they can now turn their attention to preparing for next season. Well, almost.
The Hammers can be assured of their safety before they next kick a ball. If both Bournemouth and Aston Villa drop points against Southampton and Arsenal respectively, West Ham will guarantee a place in the division next season, but they only need a point of their own to cement it for themselves.
Starting XI: Fabiański (6); Johnson (7), Diop (8), Ogbonna (8), Cresswell (7); Rice (9*), Souček (8), Noble; Bowen (7), Antonio (8), Fornals (6).
Substitutes: Haller (6), Yarmolenko (6), Balbuena (N/A).
STAR MAN – Declan Rice
Rice stepping up and playing a starring role is nothing new these days. The 21-year-old controlled this game from start to finish from the base of West Ham’s midfield and proved exactly why he is being linked to Chelsea and Manchester United.
He was his defensively dominant self, but where Rice impressed most was going forward. Being so comfortable with the ball at his feet, he dictated the tempo of this game by spraying passes around, and it was his composure which began the move for West Ham’s second.
His stunning goal was the icing on the cake of yet another strong performance, but West Ham fans might want him to take the foot off the gas. With each passing performance, the interest in him is growing stronger.
Key Talking Point
It was a tale of two halves for Watford. They were solid in the second half, but that alone is not good enough these days.
The Hornets began the game so slowly, and by the time they had woken up, they were already 2-0 down. Game over. When you’re in a relegation battle, and when you’re up against a relegation rival, you simply cannot let that happen.
Nigel Pearson’s half-time team talk did the job, but he clearly needs to do that before the game starts.
Starting XI: Foster (5); Femenía (4), Kabasele (5), Dawson (6), Masina (3); Hughes (7*), Doucouré (6), Cleverley (5); Sarr (5), Deeney (6), Welbeck (5).
Substitutes: Gray (6), Chalobah (6), Mariappa (6), Pedro (6).
STAR MAN – Will Hughes
When Watford were poor, Will Hughes looked like the only likely source of anything positive, and he grew into the game as his team began to finally show up around him.
He was solid in the tackle, but it was his vision which made him a real asset at the London Stadium. Hughes found his teammates in impressive areas, but often lacked the end product to get anything from his creativity.
Hughes’ work rate set him apart from the rest of his teammates, so at least Pearson will have something positive to take from this one.
Next up for West Ham will be a trip to Old Trafford to meet Manchester United in the penultimate game of the campaign on Wednesday.
As for Watford, the next obstacle in the hunt for survival will come in the shape of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Tuesday.