West Ham grab unlikely point thanks to Marko’s deadly double
PUBLISHED: 21:51 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 21:57 02 January 2019
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The Hammers come from two behind to grab a share of the spoils at the London Stadium
West Ham United 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
There were New Year fireworks galore as West Ham’s record home crowd were treated to an explosive second half of festive football at the London Stadium.
Following a subdued start to 2019, this contest burst into life as the hour-mark approached, when Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy took just over a minute to send the Seagulls soaring into a quick-fire two-goal lead.
But the shell-shocked Hammers responded with their own double-barrelled blast as Marko Arnautović took his season’s tally to seven, when he rescued a point for West Ham United with a barnstorming brace in the space of 60 seconds or so.
The Hammers had won five of their seven December fixtures, but following Sunday’s defeat at Burnley, Manuel Pellegrini made a trio of changes as Andy Carroll, skipper Pablo Zabaleta and Pedro Obiang returned to action in place of substitutes Mark Noble, Michail Antonio and Lucas Pérez, who were joined on the bench by new signing, Samir Nasri.
Certainly, the Chilean was an anxious spectator during the opening exchanges as the visitors forced two early corners against an edgy West Ham side, who also saw Duffy nod a warning header into Lukasz Fabianski’s clutches.
Chris Hughton’s team had ended a four-game, win-less streak with victory over Everton at the weekend and kicking off in 13th spot - two places and two points adrift of his former club – the Seagulls’ boss made just one switch as Glenn Murray returned in place of substitute Florin Andone.
With the quarter-hour mark approaching, the Hammers finally unleashed their first effort of the evening but Arnautović’s 20-yarder flew high into the Stratford sky as the Austrian recalibrated those shooting boots for later.
Midway through the half, Angelo Ogbonna nodded a Robert Snodgrass corner over the top, too, but more worrying for West Ham was the cut head sustained by Carroll as he tussled with Lewis Dunk for that first Hammers flag-kick of the night.
With his team-mate still receiving treatment, Felipe Anderson also fired meekly at David Button after Martin Montoya’s weak clearance fell to him 15 yards out, before Arnautović tested the Brighton ‘keeper with a low curling 20-yarder that almost crept inside his left-hand post.
On the half-hour, Fabianski found himself in the wars as well, when he fell awkwardly after colliding with Zabaleta in pursuit of a high cross but fortunately the Polish stopper did not suffer any lasting damage to the relief of everyone Claret and Blue.
As the interval neared, Pascal Gross sent a long-ranger high and wide, before Dunk appeared to bundle Arnautović to the turf at the other end but referee Christopher Kavanagh waved away the vociferous penalty cries to round off an uninspiring, goalless opening period.
Battered, bruised and starved of service, Carroll retired at the break as Pérez stepped from the bench and, while the bloodied Zabaleta was receiving treatment for another Hammers wound, Issa Diop won possession before releasing Anderson, who strode from halfway to the 18-yard line, where he sent a low grass-cutter scorching just an inch or so wide of the right-hand upright.
But just when the Hammers looked like they were getting within touching distance they were hit by the double-whammy of those two Seagulls strikes within as many minutes.
On 56 minutes, Gross saw his left-wing corner punched clear under pressure by Fabianski, who stood rooted to the spot as Stephens drilled a low 18-yarder back through the crowded area and into the net, to give Brighton the lead with his first strike of the season.
And with West Ham still coming to terms with that setback, Gross then saw his 20-yard effort deflected for another corner, which the German consequently floated to the far post where Duffy got behind Diop and blasted a tightly angled effort high into the roof of the Hammers net to claim his fourth goal of the campaign.
Stunned, shocked and trailing by that quick-fire double, Pellegrini immediately introduced Noble and Antonio as Obiang and Snodgrass retired and the arrival of those two new faces enabled the Hammers to regain parity in equally spectacular fashion.
Indeed, on 67 minutes, Noble’s pinpoint pass sent Arnautović galloping into the Brighton area, where he held off Duffy before squeezing a low, angled eight-yarder beyond Button and, as the hungry Austrian battled with his beaten marker for the ball inside the rippling net, referee Kavanagh was forced to intervene.
But that only gave the Seagulls a few seconds respite, for Noble soon released Antonio down the right and, after outmuscling Bernardo, he cut back from the byline, for that man Arnautović to lash the equaliser in-off the crossbar from eight yards.
Their feathers ruffled, the wobbling Seagulls saw Solly March booked for nudging Noble, while Antonio blasted high over before the impressive Declan Rice ripped into the side-netting from the edge of the area but, in the end, having been those two goals adrift the Hammers were equally grateful for those two Arnautović savers.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Diop, Ogbonna, Obiang (Noble 63), Rice, Snodgrass (Antonio 63), Anderson, Arnautović, Carroll (Pérez h/t). Unused subs: Adrián, Nasri, Masuaku, Diangana.
SEAGULLS: Button, Montoya, Bernardo (Bong 72), Duffy, Dunk, Gross, Stephens, Pröpper, March, Locadia, Murray (Andone 81). Unused subs: Steele, Kayal, Bissouma, Knockært, Balogun.
Booked: March (80)
Referee: Christopher Kavanagh.