Report and highlights as West Ham took a huge step towards securing their Premier League future; Watford stay just three points clear of the bottom three with two games left to play, including against Manchester City and Arsenal
Saturday 18 July 2020 07:07, UK
West Ham turned on the style in the first half to secure a 3-1 victory over relegation-rivals Watford to all but seal their Premier League status for next season.
The Hammers - who started the day level on points with Watford, three above the relegation zone - burst out of the traps, stunning the visitors as goals from Michail Antonio (6) and Tomas Soucek (10) saw them race into the lead, before Declan Rice's stunning strike (36) extended that advantage before half time.
Troy Deeney pulled a goal back for the visitors four minutes after the break but West Ham saw off an improved Watford display in the second half to hold on for a crucial win.
Victory sees David Moyes' side, who have a better goal difference than all of their relegation rivals, move six points above the drop zone with just two games remaining.
They also move up to 15th, above Brighton on goal difference and three points ahead of Watford, who stay just three points clear of the bottom three with games against Manchester City and Arsenal left to play.
No side have been six points clear with two games to go and been relegated...
With both sides locked on 34 points and three above the drop zone ahead of kick, the match was billed as somewhat of a relegation cup final, but there were no cup final nerves from West Ham.
The Hammers took a sixth-minute lead when Pablo Fornals' deflected pass found the in-form Antonio, who made no mistake firing through the legs of Ben Foster and into the back of the net for his seventh goal since the resumption of the Premier League in June.
West Ham: Fabianski (6), Johnson (7), Ogbonna (8), Diop (7), Cresswell (6), Rice (7), Soucek (8), Noble (7), Fornals (6), Bowen (7), Antonio (7)
Subs: Haller (6), Yarmolenko (NA), Balbuena (NA)
Watford: Foster (6), Femenia (4), Dawson (6), Kabasele (5), Masina (3), Cleverley (5), Doucoure (5), Sarr (7), Hughes (5), Welbeck (4), Deeney (6)
Subs: Mariappa (5), Gray (5), Chalobah (5), Joao Pedro (NA)
Man of the match: Angelo Ogbonna
Less than five minutes later, Watford's task was made even harder. Pearson's side were given a mountain to climb when Soucek emphatically headed home Jarrod Bowen's inch-perfect cross.
West Ham were in dreamland when Rice's superb 33-yard strike left Foster rooted to the spot and curled into the far corner to give the Hammers a three-goal advantage going into the second half.
Pearson, who would have expected a response from his side following their poor first-half performance, sent out his side early for the second half and they started brightly, Christian Kabasele glancing a header just wide after Will Hughes' corner.
They were eventually rewarded when Deeney reduced the deficit in the 49th minute. It was a slick break from the visitors as Abdoulaye Doucoure drove down the left before going for goal, but his strike rebounded off the post and into the path of the captain who tapped home to hand his side a lifeline.
The momentum had seemingly shifted towards Watford, but Deeney's exit due to trouble with a long-standing knee problem in the 67th minute was a big blow to the visitors' chances.
West Ham substitute Sebastien Haller almost made the three points safe with his first touch, but Foster, scrambling back to his goal, somehow manged to get a touch to the ball to divert it inches wide.
Watford had one final chance to pile the pressure on the hosts in the final 10 minutes but Danny Welbeck couldn't turn home the impressive Ismaila Sarr's dangerous cross as the Hammers held on for a vital three points.
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, the Sky Sports pundit pinpointed Watford's full-backs as the culprits for a poor first-half showing...
"I was really disappointed with Watford's defending, particularly the two full-backs, and the back five as a whole. The two full-backs, Masina and Femenia, well, from the very first minute you talk about making sure you're in control of your opponent. I was worried about West Ham's full-backs tonight, Cresswell and Ben Johnson up against Welbeck and Sarr, but they handled it well. At the other end, Fornals and Bowen could do what they want.
"There was no intensity in the defending, and you think of Nigel Pearson, he'll have hated watching that first half, and the performance of the full-backs did cost them the game. It was really poor.
On Ismaïia Sarr: "He's a big, big talent, he really is. We've seen his performances before, and he was a shining light for Watford. When they did attack it was through him. He will be sought-after, and Watford I'm sure will cash in if they get the right bid."
Declan Rice speaking on Sky Sports...
"Tonight is massive. The lads knew before the game, we've had a week to prepare, the fans were nervous, and I'm so glad we can give them the three points.
"In the warm-up I scored two bangers! Lads tell me to shoot more in training. Goals are something I need to add to my game... when I saw it hit the back of the net it was a great feeling."
West Ham boss David Moyes: "We started the game brilliantly, the goals we scored were terrific, and we gave each other a real chance. Tonight we stood up to everything we got, our first-half performance was excellent and so was the second half defensively.
"I've got to say, I think we're in a good position. A lot of teams will struggle to get to our points total, but I can't say they won't, we've still got to do our job."
Watford boss Nigel Pearson: "First half we let the game pass us by. We had passengers which is disappointing at this stage of the season. The second-half performance was much improved - very competitive. It's annoying. Very disappointing. It means now we have got to find another one or two good results.
"There's no getting away from the fact this result is bitterly disappointing. I'd expect better from our players - that's not to say everybody. What I say stays in the dressing room. It's not self preservation, it's making sure we take responsibility. We didn't in the first half, we did in the second half.
"It's a really poor result for us. It's a case of finding solutions. I'll look at it again and players will get honest feedback. There isn't time to dwell on it. The players will go home tonight and think 'wow we've let that one drift past us'. It wasn't good enough."
Sky Sports' Gary Neville: "I'm going with Ogbonna. He's been excellent at left centre back. His defending has been really good all night. There's a smile on his face, he knows he's done his job for West Ham."
West Ham now go to Manchester United on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports at 6pm, before hosting Aston Villa on the final day of the season on Sunday at 4pm.
Watford host Manchester City on Tuesday, live on Sky Sports at 6pm, and go to Arsenal on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday at 4pm.
Mon July 20: Brighton vs Newcastle - 6pm, Sky Sports, Sky Pick
Tue July 21: Watford vs Manchester City - 6pm, Sky Sports
Tue July 21: Aston Villa vs Arsenal - 8.15pm, Sky Sports
Wed July 22: Manchester United vs West Ham - 6pm, Sky Sports
Sun July 26: Arsenal vs Watford - 4pm, TV details to be confirmed
Sun July 26: Burnley vs Brighton - 4pm, TV details to be confirmed
Sun July 26: Everton vs Bournemouth - 4pm, TV details to be confirmed
Sun July 26: West Ham vs Aston Villa - 4pm, TV details to be confirmed