|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Quickfire Marko Arnautovic rescues a point for West Ham against Brighton
Paul MacInnes at the London Stadium
Date Published Wed 2 Jan 2019 21.49 GMT
The first ran low under the goalkeeper, the second was thrashed in off the underside of the bar, but both finishes shared the same mark of quality. Marko Arnautovic left his distinctive imprint on this game, scoring twice to drag West Ham back from embarrassment in a poor match that somehow flared into life for 12 minutes.
Chris Hughton said he was “incredibly disappointed” after his Brighton side saw their two-goal lead, scored from successive second-half corners, suddenly evaporate. But when they come to reflect on the result the visiting side will certainly take heart. Brighton did not create much but they were composed, sharp and steadied the ship at 2-2 to ride out the game in relative comfort.
For Manuel Pellegrini, there were more questions to ponder. Why had his team failed so badly to deal with a Brighton set-piece threat that was anything but a secret? Why had they struggled to find any type of fluidity for so much of the match? And why was Andy Carroll restored to the starting XI after a year only to be unceremoniously hoiked at half-time?
The answers offered afterwards were inconclusive. Pellegrini was frustrated with his defenders, “Brighton score most of their goals from set pieces and to concede two knowing this is disappointing.” At first he blamed seasonal fatigue for the level of performance, especially in the first half. But when pressed, the Chilean conceded: “We cannot play here at home and not create one chance in 45 minutes. We had a lack of creative movement when they were defending.”
As for Carroll, the striker had made his first start since 2 January, exactly one year on, when he scored both in the 2-1 win over West Brom. Times have changed, though, and it was clear from the off that the No 9, who seems to be talked about whatever he does at West Ham, was not in sync with his teammates. He looked unfit for starters, but more obviously he looked like a giraffe in a team of leopards.
It is sometimes said that playing Carroll means teammates inevitably end up lofting the ball long to his head. But here the effect was almost the opposite, with players determined to make quick flicks despite the presence of the lumbering giant in their midst. Carroll, Pellegrini said, is working his way back to match fitness. His substitution at the interval was “physical and tactical”.
Within a quarter of an hour of the restart the home side looked sunk. In the 56th minute a Jürgen Locadia cross was shanked out of play for a corner by Issa Diop. Pascal Gross delivered the set piece and landed it on the penalty spot where Lukasz Fabianski came out and punched but only as far as the edge of the box, where Dale Stephens was waiting to promptly turn it back past the Polish international with a smart left-foot volley.
If that was not to Pellegrini’s liking it got worse a moment later in what almost qualified as deja vu. Another Gross corner, another outswinger to the penalty spot. This time, however, the ball bounced to the back post where Shane Duffy was waiting to hook it into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
It was then that Pellegrini drew a line. He made another two substitutions, bringing both Mark Noble and Michail Antonio into the fray. By the time the clock ticked to 68 minutes they had helped Arnautovic to restore equilibrium. Noble started it off, his long pass read by Arnautovic who rolled Duffy before shooting past David Button. Two minutes afterwards Antonio made his mark, cutting inside the box (the ball only just staying in play) and finding Arnautovic again, who crashed his effort into the net and went wild in celebration.
When asked how to explain this sudden turnaround, Hughton gave a typically wry response. “It’s the Premier League,” he said, “it can happen.”
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, LIVE LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 5.5; Zabaleta 6, Diop 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6.5; Rice 6, Obiang 5.5 (Noble 63, 7.5); Snodgrass 5.5 (Antonio 63, 7.5), Anderson 6.5, Arnautovic 8; Carroll 5 (Perez 46, 6)
Subs not used: Adrian, Nasri, Masuaku, Diangana
Scorers: Arnautovic (66, 68)
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini 6
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Button 6.5; Montoya 6, Dunk 7, Duffy 6.5, Bernardo 5.5 (Bong 73, 6); Stephens 6.5, Propper 6; March 6.5, Gross 7, Locadia 6; Murray 5.5 (Andone 80)
Subs not used: Kayal, Bissouma, Knockaert, Balogun, Steele
Scorers: Stephens (56), Duffy (58)
Manager: Chris Hughton 6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6