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Premier League
Tuesday, 4th December 2018

West Ham United 3
Cardiff City 1

by Chris Wilkerson


West Ham recorded back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since January 2017 as the travelling Cardiff City were overwhelmed and comfortably dispatched thanks to a clinical second half display.

Inspiration came from what some would deem an unlikely source as two Lucas Perez goals turned an increasingly tricky game into a comfortable victory.

The Hammers did not have it all their own way though, with Lukasz Fabianski the hero after saving a Joe Ralls penalty before the half time break that could have completely changed the complexion of the game.

It came after a bright start from West Ham, who looked like a team full of confidence after their dismantling of Newcastle United only three days earlier.

The West Ham front three again looked sharp and bristled with intent, but this time supported more consistently and used less on the counter. Cardiff had come to make the game difficult, and with this ceded the control of the game to the home side.

For the first 20 minutes, there was only one team in it, the game resembling somewhat of a training exercise. Wave after wave of attack marched forward, with auxiliary right back for evening Michail Antonio given the freedom to push high and wide as much as possible. Cardiff on the other hand seemed more intent on time-wasting than threatening Fabianski’s quiet night.

But for all the good work, no breakthrough was forthcoming. Good shots from outside the area by Snodgrass and Anderson were dealt with comfortably by Neil Etheridge in the Cardiff City goal.

It was from here that frustration began to brew. Marko Arnautovic was full of admonishment and anger throughout his display, but it was a chance of his own creation that gave West Ham their closest effort of the first half.

Bursting past a static Cardiff central defence, Arnautovic beat Etheridge firing across goal. Yet unfortunately for the Hammers, his shot was blocked on the line by a recovering Cardiff defender.

From there, the energy seeped out of the home side’s performance, giving Cardiff a chance to grow into the game. They attacked Antonio down the right and started to look more dangerous, without creating anything substantial.

That was until Marko Arnautovic bundled through the back of Junior Hoilett inside the penalty area, unnecessarily and with his side in a comfortable position, and gave Cardiff a chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot.

The hero of the hour was Fabianski, who dived quickly to his left to hold a tame Joe Ralls spot kick.

Relief poured out around the ground, only to turn to concern minutes later as Arnautovic was forced to withdraw with injury, leaving West Ham with the possibility of the Christmas period without their talisman, His replacement was Lucas Perez, entering the field to little fanfare.

The half ended with Cardiff in the ascendancy, Fabianski again excellent saving a close-range freekick.

After the break, West Ham needed to find another gear. The opening minutes started somewhat meekly, with both sides disjointed and unable to take any control of the game.

That all changed on the 49th minute. A scrappy move saw Noble aimlessly flick the ball towards the Cardiff defence. A soft aerial ball was somehow turned into a problem as two Cardiff defenders took turns to barely head it away.

Their meek clearance fell to Robert Snodgrass. The Scotsman flicked a fantastic ball through the floundering backline, right into the path of the on running Perez. He volleyed into the centre of the goal, but the Cardiff goalkeeper was already down, already moving to predict a better finish. Instead the volley bounced off his falling body and into the back of the net. The Spaniard’s left-footed volley was his first league goal for the Hammers.

With that, any tension in the game lifted. The nerves had jangled a touch as the second half opened, but in 15 minutes the party atmosphere had taken over.

It was only five minutes after that opening goal that Lucas Perez doubled his tally.

Masuaku was fed down the line and drove at the Cardiff defence. With little pressure, he fed Perez into the box and a first-time shot was fired through the goalkeeper’s legs to double the lead. A signing who had been questioned by many had taken his chance up front and shown his critics his value.

The Cardiff resistance, tame as it had been, was gone.

On the 61st minute, the game was put to bed. A Snodgrass corner bending towards the front post was met powerfully by Michail Antonio, nodding into the bottom corner, past Etheridge and confirming all three points were staying in London.

The game descended into an exhibition from here, with a chance for Andy Carroll to mark his latest comeback and get some football into his legs ahead of the busy Christmas period. The only real spark from here was the performance of Grady Diangana, coming off the bench to illuminate the rest of the game and strive for a goal he richly deserved.

It was the youngster and Anderson, who looked almost bored by the ease of his performance, who controlled the rest of the game.

Both Rice and Ogbonna could have scored before the 90 minutes ended . Instead. the only blemish came in stoppage time, with a bizarre goal. A looping header from a Cardiff corner was not dealt with, Fabianski unable to get through the crowd of players ahead of him. It hit two players before Josh Murphy nodded in from two yards out, with West Ham players complaining to both officials nearby and even laughter from Cardiff’s Aron Gunnarsson.

It didn’t change the result, and could not change the fact that West Ham had, nearly two years since the last time, finally won back-to-back Premier League games.

It left West Ham 12th in the table, leapfrogging Wolves, with 18 points from the first 15 games. In truth, the home side had not played well, but were up against a side who never really pushed them out of second gear.

A comfortable win under the lights in East London with Crystal Palace to come this weekend.



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Player Ratings

Lucasz Fabianski



Michail Antonio



Arthur Masuaku



Issa Diop



Angelo Ogbonna



Declan Rice



Mark Noble



Felipe Anderson



Robert Snodgrass



Javier Hernandez



Marko Arnautovic



Substitutes


Lucas Perez
(Replaced Arnautovic)


Andy Carroll
(Replaced Hernandez)


Grady Diangana
(Replaced Snodgrass)


Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Did not play.


Pablo Zabaleta
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Pedro Obiang
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Graham Scott.

Attendance: 56,811.

Man of the Match: Lucasz Fabianski.

West Ham United

Lucasz Fabianski, Michail Antonio, Arthur Masuaku, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic.

Goals: Lucas Perez 49 Lucas Perez 54 Michail Antonio 61              .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Cardiff City

Etheridge, Bennett, Morrison, Bamba, Ecuele Manga, Camarasa, Ralls (Mendez-Laing 64), Gunnarsson, Arter, Hoilett (Murphy 64), Paterson (Harris 73).

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: Smithies, Peltier, Madine, Reid.

Goals: Murphy (90+5).

Booked: .

Sent Off: .

 

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Chris Wilkerson's Man of the Match: Lucasz Fabianski


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