Brighton & Hove Albion 3 West Ham United 1
Sunday, 22nd May 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
The season ended on a sour note for West Ham United this Sunday afternoon in Brighton, a 3-1 defeat after an atrocious second half performance meaning West Ham missed a chance to qualify for the Europa League.6th-placed rivals Manchester United lost their game at Crystal Palace, meaning a win would move David Moyes's side above them. But after leading 1-0 at half-time, the Hammers imploded and gave one of the worst 45 minutes of football they have offered up this season. Eventually, even profligate Brighton couldn't waste enough chances to let the points slide, comfortably winning to finish their best ever Premier League season.
A good first half could not be followed by a second, and West Ham let their season finish meekly. The Hammers had already guaranteed European football, and the Europa Conference League is what they will get after this defeat. A shame, too, that Mark Noble's last appearance in a West Ham shirt would end in defeat, even if some may say a disappointing West Ham display against Brighton would be one of the more common themes of his career.
Moyes sent his team out with a different look, Lanzini and Fornals allowed free movement from both flanks as Bowen and Antonio played up top. The systems changed fluidly, both in attack and defensive shape, and it made for an entertaining opening 45 minutes. Brighton, as they do now under Potter, were committed to playing passing and attacking football, whilst West Ham looked to carry a threat even in spells where the hosts kept the majority of the ball.
It was Brighton who controlled the opening stages, a first 15 minutes where the home side settled quickly into the game and made the better openings. A chance inside ten minutes was wasted by Caicedo, the midfielder meeting the ball as it fell loose on the edge of the box, but shooting right at Fabianski. Moments later, a crucial Coufal block halted another good opportunity.
It took until around the quarter of an hour mark for West Ham to find their rhythm and build pressure. Once they did, they sustained it as Coufal and Cresswell pushed high and found space to cross. Coufal, in particular, was a threat and has shown an extra spring in his step since returning from injury. For all the crossing, only two found a West Ham player over the whole 90 minutes.
The game was entertaining, but without incident, and very much had the feel of the final game of the season, a sense that it just didn't really matter all that much. Things drifted, and maybe that lack of intensity was why very few clear chances were made. Until Antonio decided to break the net, the only talking points had been the positions of Fornals and Lanzini.
But with around five minutes until the break, an innocuous throw was flicked into the air on the edge of the box by Antonio. The defender jumped to head it clear, but his brush with Big Mic knocked him off balance and he flopped to the floor. Antonio turned and smashed it instinctively at goal with his left and the ball rifled - and that term could not be more fitting - into the top corner, exploding off his boot and beyond Sanchez in the goal before anyone could see where it had gone.
It will be up to others to decide whether this was Antonio's first West Ham goal from outside of the box, but his feet were inside the area and the ball looked to be on the line. Regardless, the striker moved to ten goals for the season, and for the third time on the spin. Not a striker?
The Hammers went in a goal up at half time and sat in 6th place. The sun was out, West Ham were winning away, it all felt like the right send-off for the season.
During the break, Potter turned to his bench and saw Maupay, the modern day Glenn Murray when it comes to West Ham fixtures.
He didn't strike, but Brighton took charge of the game with his arrival and were soon level. With all the play their way, Brighton were pinning West Ham back. A clipped cross from the left was flicked on by Dawson but only to the opposition. The ball was set back to the edge of the box, where Veltman struck low and hard at goal. Fabianski, diving down to his left, either lost the ball or was unlucky with a deflection, but it squeezed through his legs and into the back of the net, and was something he could have done better way even with a possible nick on the way to goal.
Two minutes later, it was Cresswell clearing at the back post as a ball fizzed across goal, carefully ushering the ball across his path until he was forced to act and knock the ball behind. It was the kind of defending he does not get credit for, but smart and strong.
West Ham were rattled, no doubt about it. The fluid 4-4-2 from the first half looked to have changed to the expected 4-2-3-1, but it hadn't worked. Whether it was done to protect the lead or the otherwise, the chaos of the first half had gone from the whole game to just focused in West Ham's half. There was no counter threat, no attacking edge and nothing but Brighton control.
Fornals and Lanzini, both moved from their first half roles, seemed to be completely unsettled. Soucek looked tired, Bowen anonymous and Antonio left all alone. Soon Welbeck had missed a huge chance from a tight angle and the Hammers were on the ropes. Webster headed wide unchecked from a corner not long after and it felt like a case of when for the Brighton winner, rather than whether they would.
In the end, it came with ten minutes to go. A throw from the right was cycled neatly across the box until Gro?? received it with his back to goal, just inside the area.
A quick swivel and strike followed, in the blink of an eye, and the ball curled beautifully into the top corner with Fabianski beaten all ends up.
As if to underline the job we have on in the summer, off the bench at 2-1 down came Yarmolenko, Johnson and a final appearance for West Ham legend Mark Noble.
It changed little, Welbeck wasting a chance in the middle of the goal from six yards, nodding an easy header right into the goalkeeper's hands with five minutes to go.
In stoppage time he took his chance, a corner finding him far too easily, the striker heading home to end a miserable half and finish the contest.
A 3-1 away defeat to finish off a wonderful season, a 3-1 away defeat to finish off Mark Noble's career. It was a shame, but it did feel very West Ham.
And so it was a Europa Conference League spot and 7th place. A good season's work, considering the schedule, especially considering this club rarely string together two good seasons in modern times.
A big summer ahead. Enjoy the break, don't get too dragged in by all the rumours, see you next season!
David Moyes 4/10: A good first half was followed by confusing tactical changes, heavily delayed substitutions and a complete loss of control.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Deflection, slow footwork, reflexes showing their age; whatever it was, Fabianski could have done better on the first goal. Must be close to losing his number one spot.
Looked fresh and fit, clever flicks returning to his game and the confidence to drive past the impressive Cucurella. Has come back from injury very well.
He did the odd bit of solid and unspectacular, yet crucial defending. Didn't make an impact going forward.
As above, looked heavy on his feet and wasn't assured.
As the game wore on, it was too easy to get through West Ham. Brighton should have had 6, and whilst them missing chances isn't new, West Ham going to pieces is not as common.
Was excellent with the ball and his positioning was exceptional. Quietly superb shielding the defence.
Just looked tired. Could have been sent off for a second yellow when halting a counter-attack in the second, and he probably didn't need to. Looked too tired to do anything else.
Whilst he still played some of the better passes, he was also extremely sloppy with the ball as the game went on. Should have been withdrawn sooner.
Carried some threat in the first half but looked lost as it all wore on.
Didn't influence the game.
Had a brilliant first half and took his goal well. Quietened down in the second, but wasn't helped by a supporting team who couldn't work out how to pass.
(Replaced Fornals, 81) Well, it was his last game.
(Replaced Lanzini, 81) I have been harsh on Yarmolenko on these pages, but he has proven me wrong. Will go with the fond thoughts of many West Ham fans, the majority of whom will look back at harsher comments and feel they misspoke.
(Replaced Coufal, 81) A cameo with no moments to remember.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 41 .
Booked: Craig Dawson 23 .
Sent off: None.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Sanchez, Veltman, Dunk, Webster, Cucurella, Bissouma (Maupay 46), Caicedo (Mwepu 79), March (Lamptey 75), Gross, Mac Allister, Welbeck.
Subs not used: Steele Lallana, Alzate, Duffy, Offiah, Ferguson.
Goals: Veltman (50), Gross (77), Welbeck (90+2).
Booked: Maupay (83).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.