WEST HAM 0-3 BRIGHTON
Murray was stood on the edge of the penalty area. Waiting. Waiting for the ball to fall to his feet. When the ball was crossed in, it fell into his path. Nobody was close to the danger. Zabaleta wasn’t concentrating. He jogged towards Murray, sluggishly to try to stop him. He stuck out his foot half-heartedly, but it was so mistimed that it caught Murray’s leg and sent him toppling to the ground. It was this moment alone which highlighted everything that was missing in West Ham’s side.
This was a spineless performance from a team who simply do not gel. It was as if eleven strangers had been shoved on the pitch guided by a game plan that was drawn up the night before. Murray converted the penalty with ease, sending Joe Hart the wrong way. Slaven Bilic – the man responsible for the mess – stood arms-folded, gazing into the stands where huge swathes of West Ham fans were leaving.
The truth is that the game was over by half-time. Brighton may not have superstar names in their squad, but what they do have is a togetherness and a shared mentality with every player fighting for every point – something which West Ham are still searching for.
It took Brighton just ten minutes to break down the flimsy West Ham back four. It was Gross who was the provider. He whipped in an inch-perfect free-kick which met the head of Glenn Murray who directed it into the net after he went unchallenged by Reid, Obiang or Masuaku – all of whom should have been marking him. West Ham knew Gross and Murray were dangers but they were given free rein to do whatever they desired. Brighton were up against a team that simply did not care.
West Ham did mount a comeback of sorts. But even that lasted a mere 15 minutes. Antonio and Zabaleta both produced lots of crosses, but every time the ball went into the box, it was blocked by either Dunk or Duffy who acted as unbreakable shields in the Brighton defence.
West Ham weren’t prepared to give up yet. Kouyate was thrown forward to give them more of a chance against the strong Brighton back four. Even with the extra physical presence of Kouyate, they were still no match for Duffy and Dunk. West Ham were restricted to long shots which were born purely out of frustration.
Despite a sustained period of dominance, it was Brighton who came out on top. Brighton saw their opportunity and pounced. Murray was played through on goal after Fonte and Reid were left on their own. The ball still should never have came into his path. The defending was pathetic to say the least. But then Hart pulled out a sublime save. Danger averted – or so they thought.
That should have been a wake-up call for West Ham. But they paid no attention to it. Brighton stole the ball back and Izguierdo was allowed all the time in the world to run from the left wing, to the edge of the box. Obiang was the man trying to stop him. He put in a pathetic, feeble challenge which Izguierdo seamlessly skipped past and lashed it past Joe Hart, who got a palm to the ball but it was too powerful and fell into the net. For England’s number one, it was a useless attempt. But the shot would never have been taken had West Ham simply been concentrating – the most basic element of the game.
Brighton – had they been in West Ham’s situation – would have kept fighting. But the life in West Ham’s game was relinquished after the second goal. The penalty was the final nail in the coffin for the Hammers. But was it the final nail for Slaven Bilic?
Subs used: Ayew 6, Fernandes 6
Subs used: Schelotto 6, Brown 6, March 6
Man of the Match – Glenn Murray