Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 West Ham United 1

Saturday, 17th August 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham took their first point of the season today as Manuel Pellegriniís side took a 1-1 draw at Brightonís Amex Stadium.

In a less than fluent performance for the Irons, they could thank both Brighton's wastefulness in front of goal and VAR for keeping the final score level.

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The Hammers were forced into changes from their first day bruising at the hands of Manchester City, with record signing Sebastian Haller injured and previous record signing Felipe Anderson also unfit to play.

Pellegrini made five changes overall, with Balbuena, Cresswell and Antonio also taken out of the side.

Coming into the side were Hernandez, Fornals, Masuaku, Snodgrass and Ogbonna, who captained the side.

The game started well for both sides and it was a refreshing change in a game between these two to see players on either side looking to play out from defence and be comfortable passing it around in pressure situations.

That said, it was a floated set piece met by a big centre back's head that could have broken the deadlock within a minute. It highlighted an issue that was a worry all game: Brighton are tall, West Ham are not.

It was an opening minutes with similar promise to that of the Manchester City game, full of good movement, clever passing and neat football. It was also similar in that West Ham did nothing that looked like damaging their opponent, playing very nicely in front of their area without making inroads behind.

It allowed Brighton time to grow into the game. After forcing Fabianski into the first save of the contest on 20 minutes, the half then became the home side's to control.

With Graham Potter's revolutionised Brighton playing some lovely neat football, it was almost inevitable that a return to the direct game would cause the most notable moment of the first half.

As a free kick from around halfway floated into the box, it flew over the heads of everyone. Collected by Dan Burn just before it could run out of play, his turn and cross found new signing Trossard to hammer beyond Fabianski and into a 1-0 lead.

With the teams ready to kick off, VAR came to life. What it rightly saw, and the officials didn't, was Burn's offside from the original freekick. With the original contested ball not touched, Burn was still offside from the first phase and collecting the ball to fire back in saw him correctly deemed offside.

The defence could could themselves very lucky, especially Masuaku who was marking absolutely no one at the back post as the ball was returned in.

What was interesting to note, and important for West Ham here too, was the impact of VAR overturning the goal.

It appeared to deflate Brighton, and whilst they remained the better side, they lost some of their momentum and a lot of their threat.

This carried the Hammers into half time with parity and their clean sheet, with very little else in the way of positives, but plenty to think about.

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Hernandez and Snodgrass were offering next to nothing, although whether the Mexican can be blamed is another matter. Fornals too looked lost, whether it be positionally or in taking a fraction too long on the ball, and will need time to adapt.

All this was as frustrating as West Ham's inability to take short goal kicks. Each time, Diop and Ogbonna came back, and each time they were sent away and Fabianski would launch it upfield to be lost in the air.

Pelllegrini acted to change things during the break. Antonio came on for Wilshere, pushing Snodgrass into the middle and Fornals wide right, Lanzini left, as Antonio went alongside Hernandez through the middle.

It appeared to leave Masuaku and Fredericks to provide the real width, but whilst Lanzini worked to protect his full back, Fredericks was limited down his side as Fornals struggled to work up and down the flank, a role he would not appear suited to.

It didn't offer much to improve Fornals himself or West Ham at all. Brighton kept control as the second half started.

West Ham were too easy to get at and too easy to open up, but they escaped punishment even as Trossard was given all the time in the world in the centre of the box, snatching at the ball and screwing It wife when there was time to take a touch.

And whilst Snodgrass had brought one decent cross on a drive forward, West Ham soon took an undeserved lead.

With an hour just gone, Lanzini took the game into his own hands.

Receiving a ball on the left around halfway, under pressure from a defender double his size, the Argentine wasn't to be bullied, then hurdled a rather agricultural challenge to push towards goal.

As another defender desperately flew forward, Hernandez's instincts kicked in. He darted into the space behind the defence, Lanzini slid the ball into his path.

Ryan came to meet him in the area on the left hand side, but Hernandez did as Hernandez does, squeezing it through the goalkeeper and into the back of the net for a rather undeserved 1-0 lead for the Irons, although entirely deserved for Lanzini as he tried to drag and inspire his side into this game.

Unfortunately for him, it didn't last long. Defensive frailties were to eventually be punished.

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Only four minutes later, Brighton equalised.

A looped ball down the middle, rather harmless, was enough to frighten Diop. The Frenchman went from first to the ball to easily nudged aside as Glenn Murray leant into him. It was weak and another example of physicality completely disrupting Diop's ability to defend.

The ball dropped to Trossard and as Ogbonna failed to put pressure on him, the wideman hammered it easily beyond Fabianski's reach and restored parity.

From there, Brighton should have been looking to push the momentum onwards for three points. Maupay and Andone came on after another big chance was blasted over the bar in the centre of goal, created by Murray as Diop kept him onside.

At the other end, Yarmolenko entered the game and almost had an instant impact. A first time pass set Antonio chasing down on goal, and as Dunk slid in, Antonio was seemingly undeniably fouled.

The referee waved play on, and whilst replays showed clear impediment, VAR had no interest. Whether it wasn't clear and obvious, or whether it being outside the box changed its involvement, fans will be left scratching their head at that one.

The ebb and flow continued, with Propper missing aglorious chance for Brighton one minute, Lanzini running 60 yards to set up a Snodgrass shot in another.

As time died away, Antonio failed to get real contact and diversion onto a header from around six yards and Brighton breathed one last sigh of relief.

It was the last real chance of the game, and as the contest ended with honours even, West Ham can reflect on their first point of the season as a point gained in a game they never really controlled.

Brighton will be furious they didn't do more to take three points, with multiple clear chances presented to them.

Considering the game and Brighton's start last week, it was a point gained. However, concerns about the suitability of midfield will remain and defensive frailties are being easily exposed.

Pellegrini has work to do.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Nothing notable in his performance. Beaten by shots he likely couldnít stop, and Brighton wasted chances without testing him.


Ryan Fredericks
Solid performance, kept his side relatively unthreatened.


Arthur Masuaku
On the ball, it is clear that he is necessary for Pellegriniís full back plan to work. Lingering question marks over his defensive brain, which remain after his performance today. Not awful, but little moments worry.


Issa Diop
It appears the more blunt the instrument, the more shaken Diop is. Murrayís ability to use physical presence and more classic English centre forward play is the type to put Diop off his stride.


Angelo Ogbonna
Lack of pressure gave Trossard an easier effort on goal and he was part of a defence that was lucky not to concede three or four.


Declan Rice
Quiet. Arguable that having an ever changing line of midfield partners isnít helping him.


Jack Wilshere
Not particularly in the game and was rightly withdrawn.


Robert Snodgrass
His first half confirmed thoughts that he isnít a winger any longer, but he grew into the second half and his energy in midfield made things happen.


Manuel Lanzini
West Hamís best player throughout. Made the goal, in more than just his pass, and had a quality on the ball that no player on either side possessed.


Pablo Fornals
Off the pace of the league so far. An extra touch here or there that isnít needed.


Javier Hernandez
Was given service once. Delivered. His all round contribution was a little limited, but he did his thing and gained us a point.



Substitutes

Michail Antonio
(Replaced Wilshere) Struggled initially to make an impact but his direct running late on was dangerous. Had a shot that was bad for his standards at one point, skied to a different stratosphere.


Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Fornals) Had his odd moment, working his way back into football after a long time out.


Carlos Sanchez
(Replaced Hernandez) Did nothing wrong, really.


Roberto Jimenez Gago
Did not play.


Pablo Zabaleta
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Albian Ajeti
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Arthur Masuaku, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Jack Wilshere, Robert Snodgrass, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Javier Hernandez.

Goals: Javier Hernandez 61                  .

Booked: Arthur Masuaku 76 Declan Rice 90        .

Sent off: None.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan, Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Burn, Stephens, March, Propper, Trossard (Mooy 85), Gross (Maupay 67), Murray (Andone 74).

Subs not used: Button, Bernardo, Webster, Locadia, Mooy.

Goals: Trossard (65).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Attendance: 30,459.

Man of the Match: Manuel Lanzini.