|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
André Ayew pounces to earn West Ham hard-fought draw against Watford
Paul MacInnes at Vicarage Road
Date Published Saturday 25 February 2017 19.41 GMT
Two late opportunities after West Ham had been reduced to 10 men might have given Walter Mazzarri’s side three points, but they were lucky to take one after choosing to sit on the early lead given to them by Troy Deeney’s third-minute penalty.
Slaven Bilic’s side dominated the second half and André Ayew’s equaliser had looked like a platform for victory until the dismissal of Michail Antonio, West Ham’s best player, took the wind out of their sails.
“I have mixed emotions,” Bilic said. “We told them at half-time we could definitely raise our level and play with more confidence. The second half was one of our better performances this season.
“We deserved the equaliser and in my opinion we deserved to win but as we played the last 10 minutes with 10 men, they used their physical strength and could have won it.”
Deeney opened the scoring with his eighth goal of the season and his third spot-kick after Mauro Zárate had been fouled by Cheikhou Kouyaté. Zárate, a former West Ham player, was carried off in agony after sustaining what looked like knee ligament damage. The club expect to learn the extent of his injury on Monday.
Mazzarri opted to replace the forward with a midfielder, Abdoulaye Doucouré, for the second half. It was a cautious move that, combined with Bilic’s encouragement, simply invited West Ham to go at Watford, which they did.
Mazzarri said he made the decision for tactical reasons to counter numbers in the West Ham midfield, but also because he believed his substitute striker Isaac Success was unable to last even 45 minutes.
“In games like today, anything can happen,” Mazzarri said. “With the substitution my thinking was that we were one up and they were pushing us in midfield so I chose to add a player there. Success does not have 70 minutes in him at this moment. To be clear, if Zárate had got injured 10 minutes into the second half I would have brought Success on.”
West Ham’s comeback was led by Antonio. With Andy Carroll out with a groin injury (he is expected to return to full training next week), Antonio, the England international who has played at least four different positions for Bilic this season, was selected as a lone frontman and terrorised the Watford defence.
In the first half he was in effect playing by himself, contesting high balls, running the channels, breaking with the ball down the wing. “Antonio was our best player,” Bilic said. “But he can’t get the ball, run down the wing and cross it to himself. Well, maybe sometimes, but not today.”
Antonio looked like he had missed his team’s best chance when he made an awful connection with an excellent Aaron Cresswell cross in the 69th minute. But three minutes later he broke an impossibly high Watford line to run on to Manuel Lanzini’s through ball and burst forward on to goal.
With Younès Kaboul trailing in his wake, Antonio let off a rocket of a shot with his weaker left foot which cannoned off both posts before falling to a gleeful Ayew, who turned the ball home.
“If you ask me about Antonio’s performance up front I was really pleased,” Bilic said. “He had a great game, a great game.”
Sadly for Antonio, that great game came to an unfortunate end when a deliberate handball, in an attempt to stop a counterattack, led to him receiving a second yellow card. Watford at last were prompted into doing some attacking and two corners could easily have won the match in the last moments.
Miguel Britos headed José Holebas’s kick over the bar when unmarked and in the last second of the game, Success failed to get a touch on the ball when it squirmed past Darren Randolph less than six yards out. Perhaps he was a bit tired.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Watford (4-3-3): Gomes 6.5; Janmaat 6 (Cathcart 6, 52), Kaboul 6.5, Britos 6.5, Holebas 6.5; Cleverley 6, Behrami 6.5, Capoue 6.5; Zarate 6 (Doucoure 6, 45+9), Deeney 7.5, Niang 7
Unused subs: Arlauskis, Prodl, Zuniga, Success, Okaka
Goal: Deeney (3 pen)
Booked: Janmaat, Cleverley, Holebas, Zarate
Manager: Walter Mazzarri 6
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Randolph 6.5; Kouyate 6, Fonte 7, Reid 6.5, Cresswell 7; Noble 6.5, Obiang 6.5; Feghouli 6.5, Snodgrass 6 (Ayew 6.5, 65), Lanzini 7.5 (Fernandes 90+1); Antonio 7.5
Unused subs: Adrian, Collins, Byram, Masuaku, Calleri
Goal: Ayew (73)
Booked: Antonio, Kouyate
Sent off: Antonio (86)
Manager: Slaven Bilic 6
Referee: Craig Pawson 5.5
Star man: Antonio