|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Watford’s Odion Ighalo on target again in defeat of West Ham United
Simon Burnton at Vicarage Road
Date Published Saturday 31 October 2015 17.08 GMT
West Ham, the scourge of the nation’s most revered sides, proved themselves once again the punchbags of the newly promoted as they fell to a first away defeat of the season against a team who were better than them in the first half and, after Slaven Bilic made two substitutions at the interval, even more superior in the second.
Odion Ighalo, a man Watford were ready to sell in the summer but who has now either scored or created every one of their last nine goals, sealed the fate of a terribly disappointing Hammers side and now has 23 goals in 29 league games this calendar year.
He was also the subject of James Collins’s extremely hard and extraordinarily late challenge with six minutes of normal time remaining, as a result of which the visitors ended the match with 10 men.
“I can’t have any complaints,” said Bilic of Keith Stroud’s decision to show the red card. “I have more complaints about how we played and how we helped them, with the greatest respect to them,” he said. “They have a good team but we gave them a hand. We helped them. In the Premier League you can lose games, of course you can, but you can live with defeats if your team gave everything. Today they didn’t.”
West Ham have taken maximum points from their games against Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea – and they remain a healthy fifth in the table – but they also have one of a possible nine against Bournemouth, Norwich and now Watford, who joined their opponents in the top 10 as a result of their finest performance of the season and a second successive 2-0 victory.
It was with only slight overstatement that Quique Sánchez Flores declared this “a match that we controlled the entire time”.
Watford has been the ideal venue for the disorganised, late-arriving fan, Ighalo’s 39th-minute opener – one for the dubious goals panel, having perhaps come off a defender’s foot – being the first scored in the first half of any game. Those a little slow to take their seats again missed little, though they may have not have seen Dmitri Payet, initially stationed on the left but frequently roaming infield, pirouetting balletically past his marker in the fourth minute before shooting tamely.
Andy Carroll spearheaded the West Ham attack on his first league start of the season, but though he sent a volley wide from Payet’s delicious second-half chipped cross he was more influential in his own penalty area than his opponents’. In the 10th minute Nathan Aké’s header from a corner was pushed away from goal by Adrián only to fall, after a few swings and scuffs, to Troy Deeney, whose shot hit Carroll first in the head and then the hand, leading to noisy but unsuccessful penalty appeals.
Carroll’s part in Watford’s opener was humiliatingly hapless. Ben Watson, whose set-piece delivery was a threat throughout, chipped in a free-kick, and as it fell to the ground the striker swung his left foot at the ball, totally – and perhaps deliberately – missing it before, still in possession, he turned his back to play and stopped. Aké however did not, taking the ball off his toes and sliding it across goal, where it was poked over the line by a combination of Ighalo and Aaron Cresswell.
Though Watford’s best first-half chances came from set pieces, they at least had some. Bilic perhaps felt forced into some kind of change at the break, but the arrival of Mauro Zárate and Enner Valencia prompted 10 minutes of total domination by the home team, and another goal.
Deeney’s pass found Ikechi Anya running from right to left into the penalty area. Off balance, the Scottish winger’s pass towards Ighalo was weak and James Tomkins should have dealt with it. Instead he let it run between his feet and the Nigerian controlled before spearing the ball into the top corner.
A minute later Ighalo was sent clear only for Adrián to save his shot and a minute after that Deeney blazed over the bar when given time and space on the edge of the area. To say that West Ham were shambolic during this period would be to do the concept of hopeless disorganisation a disservice.
They improved thereafter – it would have been difficult not to – but their best chance was gifted to them as Craig Cathcart’s blind back pass was intercepted by Valencia, whose shot crashed against the post before Carroll, somewhat summing up his afternoon, failed to control the rebound.