Brighton & Hove Albion 1-3 West Ham United
Saturday, 26th August 2023
by Chris Wilkerson
For the first time in the Premier League, West Ham United have finally beaten Brighton. 13th time's the charm, but there was no luck involved, West Ham thoroughly deserved their 3-1 victory on the south coast.It may have been back in the Championship that the Hammers last beat Brighton, but the high-flying Seagulls were finally bested by an absolute masterclass of David Moyes management.
Brighton dominated the ball, but couldn't use it to dominate the game, and were threatening as West Ham stayed deep, defended with discipline and were deadly on the counter.
There will have been few who really went into the game with much optimism. It's been six defeats and six draws since that last win, with Brighton on a consistent upward curve under De Zerbi. But the steel has looked to be returning to this West Ham side, and this game confirmed that Moyesball is back.
There wasn't a bad performance to be found in claret and blue, everyone from Areola to the isolated Antonio was fantastic. The manager had his plan and the players executed it sublimely.
There were two changes, Ogbonna replacing the suspended Aguerd and a full debut for Alvarez, who came in for Benrahma, with Paqueta moving wide left in a structured 4-1-4-1, with the Mexican midfielder sitting behind a pair of Soucek and Ward-Prowse centrally.
The game was easy to predict in pattern, if not result. Brighton were going to keep the ball and pass it, pass it to the point of boredom. West Ham would sit in, content to move in their shape and allow Brighton to play the game in front of them.
The early chances were West Ham's, a long throw falling at the back post for Paqueta that the Brazilian couldn't get over, and a left-footed effort in the box by Antonio that was hit right at the goalkeeper.
Moments of much interest were somewhat rare. The match was consistently settled as Brighton in possession, camped in the West Ham half, and then either a turnover with West Ham trying to pounce quickly, or the ball going back to the defence and the process starting again.
It made Antonio's work absolutely vital in giving any respite for the defence, and the striker was exceptional in his role. Isolated, often completely out of the game, the striker had to be eager and on it when his moments came, and he was.
There were great examples of the forward carrying the ball with a whole defence to beat alone, and making progress up the pitch to relieve that pressure and even try and build West Ham attacks. His ability to hold off the Brighton defenders, and beat them when running at goal, kept them a little more contained, unable to forget their responsibilities, fully aware that to leave the striker against only one centre back was just too high a risk.
He was being released quickly, and this was a sign of what Ward-Prowse is bringing to improve this midfield.
The ex-Southampton man goes forward fast, but not blindly. It's instinctive and aware passing, often first-time as the ball comes to him, much like with his assist for Antonio in the Chelsea game last week.
Here today, it was on show again and again, and brings back West Ham to a level on the counter like the best days of Moyes in the league, the years that ended with European qualification through the league. It's a little bit where Soucek and Rice lacked, the ability to play incisive and dangerous forward passes, and especially so with such instantaneous release.
And he was the man who got the reward for this instinct, and opened the scoring for West Ham.
It started with the midfielder, a loose ball falling to him inside the West Ham half. He played forward immediately, a looping ball into the corner for Antonio and Webster to chase. The centre back was first to it, but had the striker breathing down his neck, and the pressure forced a mistake.
Antonio stole in, driving from wife left and into the box, with Ward-Prowse the only player up in support, getting into the box square of him.
The striker played the simple pass, a touch belatedly and less than smoothly, and Ward-Prowse had a first shot blocked. Fortunately for him, it fell into his path once more, rolling into the six-yard box and closer to him than to either defender or goalkeeper who chased in panic, giving the midfielder the simple task of slotting into an open goal to get his first West Ham goal, and his 50th Premier League goal, as well as a vital lead with 19 minutes played.
Almost straight from the kick-off, Brighton created their first chance, moving forwards more directly and with more speed than in any of the 20 minutes prior. Ferguson got the shot away in the box, but it was a comfortable save for Areola.
West Ham were not in the mood to concede. This was another example of that steel returning. It was a little shakier last weekend with Chelsea coming to town, but on the road, Moyes' boys looked like last season in the league was long forgotten. This was 20/21, breaking at speed and letting no man create anything meaningful. When balls did get loose, the pack flew into action, evidenced by one fantastic Ward-Prowse block when Gilmour let fly from the edge of the box.
Buying into the plan and playing the game the manager wants to play is key to that. Ward-Prowse and Alvarez are both shining in these early days as players who will do exactly that.
With such defensive prowess, and a one-goal lead, Hammers fans everywhere will have mostly just laughed when seeing Brighton had played around 250 completed passes in the opening half an hour, compared to just 13 from West Ham. Whilst it's nice to dominate games with the ball, The Irons dominated without it. Over 200 passes less, but one goal more. Funny old game.
There was much more concern for Tomas Soucek, whose game was ended early after a collision with the Brighton goalkeeper.
On came Benrahma, moving Paqueta to the centre. It's a shame for Soucek, whose form in these opening games has been impressive, but with new signings to bed in and Paqueta's ability to do defensive work, this may have given the manager an opportunity to drop his trusted general. With depth in the squad improving, any slip, injury or suspension gives another player the chance to take your place.
There were yellow cards for Ward-Prowse and Alvarez, both caught lunging into tackles, as well as some excellent defending at the back posts by Coufal and Emerson when Brighton tested the defence with crosses. The pair had excellent games against two in-form opponents, and many teams will struggle to keep even one of Mitoma and March quiet this season, let alone both.
The only real scare of the half came from West Ham threatening themselves. First Alvarez sliced a ball high into the air and back at his own goal, and then Areola dropped the catch, but was relieved to see the ball bounce close to him, rather than into the goal a few yards away.
At half-time, believe it or not, it was Brighton 0-1 West Ham United.
Brighton came out after the break with renewed energy, and should have scored within a minute. Mitoma made space down the left, dinked a cross to the back post. Ferguson had peeled into space, and had Areola scrambling across his goal line to get from near to far post, but his header down just wasn't really into the corner, and Areola beat the ball away.
The Japanese winger had a chance himself a few minutes later, after a deep corner found him unmarked. With a bit of time and space, he blasted over from close range.
The home fans were then up in arms as Paqueta bullied Estupinan off the ball in the penalty area, smashing into the left back, shoulder to shoulder, and knocking him to the ground. It wasn't a penalty, and wasn't given as one. It wasn't the last time the Brighton support were begging for a penalty, nor that they'd be denied.
West Ham were unconcerned. There was risk to the approach, but a few chances for the opposition are to be expected.
It was interesting to see how they tried to form attacks. You could see Alvarez dropping between the centre backs when the Hammers had possession, pushing Zouma and Ogbonna a little wider, and allowing the full backs to push forward with the freedom of wing backs. It certainly suits the left side, where Emerson's game brings out much more from Benrahma and Paqueta, among others.
The left back is at his best flying forward, and he is good carrying the ball. He can time a run, too, and one burst forward allowed Benrahma to roll a ball in front of him, and the defender kept on into the box, smashing an effort goalwards with enough venom to beat the reactions of the goalkeeper, but only skim off the bar and over.
That was the reminder to Brighton that West Ham were still an attacking presence. Two minutes later, it was 2-0.
This was as good a counter attacking goal as you'll ever see. Antonio drifted back into defence, winning it in the left back position. The forward immediately went forward with the ball, and then played a drilled pass to Benrahma's feet on the left flank.
The Algerian was a picture of calm as two defenders ran to close him down. It should be appreciated just how smart Benrahma was as he stood still, waiting for his team to catch up with him.
It was Bowen who did, flying through the middle at pace. Benrahma curled it beautifully across the pitch and right into the path of Bowen, whose first touch was as perfect as the pass.
The touch took him into the box, another got the ball out of his feet, and then he rolled the ball into the bottom corner to give his side a 2-0 lead, heap more pressure onto Brighton and give West Ham some much needed breathing space.
Five minutes later, it was West Ham again sticking it in the back of the net. And it was finally the goal for the man whose work deserved it most.
An Areola kick found Bowen on the right flank. He took it down quickly and turned to race forward, but instead floated a pass to the edge of the box for Antonio. His first touch took him backwards, but the striker is endlessly unpredictable, twisting back and forth to suddenly leave Webster beaten.
He shifted the ball right, smashed low and hard across goal and got himself on the scoresheet, where he thoroughly deserved to be, with about half an hour remaining.
With all the talk of new strikers, Mohammed Kudus coming in, and Jarrod Bowen maybe playing up top, Antonio has made himself undroppable in the last two games.
Brighton pushed on, desperately searching for a goal. Dunk soon had a free header from a corner, but met Areola on form.
It soon could have been four for West Ham; Antonio clipped in behind the defence by Paqueta, but the striker could only hit over as the goalkeeper stormed out to challenge him.
Brighton eventually got their goal, Gross twisting and turning on the edge of the box before drilling in a low effort just out of Areola's reach. There were 10 minutes remaining, and Brighton must have felt there were still chances to be had.
Unfortunately for them, Areola was in fine form, and repelled all they could throw at him. The Frenchman produced fantastic saves from Veltman and Ferguson, and even the substitute Ings dropped back onto the line to head away a goalbound effort from Dunk. Today was West Ham's day.
And so it ended, the hoodoo beaten for one day, Brighton finally defeated in the Premier League, a run stretching back to a Vaz Te hat-trick at Upton Park in The Championship.
With it, West Ham went top on seven points, with Manchester City the only time with maximum points, and yet to play this weekend. More importantly, the feelgood factor is back for the Hammers, and momentum is a magical thing.
David Moyes 9/10
It was a simple plan, but you have to give the manager huge credit for seeing the gaps that would bother Brighton, and more importantly getting the players to buy-in on such a hard gameplan.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
A few easy saves, and then two very good ones. Just got to make sure he isn't dropping silly high balls in his own box.
Mitoma may have been the best player of the first two rounds of fixtures, but he was marshalled well by Coufal. Not without threat, but Vlad is a very good defender and made it a battle, a battle he won.
Emerson gets what some might call harsher judgement on these pages, but he was excellent today. A season coming in and out of the team last year seems to have bedded in more of the Moyes basics, whilst his ability in attack, and just carrying out of defence, has added another dimension to West Ham's play. It was things like the headers at the back post and the discipline in defence that get him most credit today, even if he was unlucky not to score.
The central pair may be a little bit disappointed at some of the chances they did concede, a few of which were very much their bread and butter. Headers for Ferguson and Dunk could have been avoided, whilst their game was made easier by such a wall of midfielders in front of them.
Ogbonna more than Zouma allowed those chances, but it will be interesting to see if the more consistent Ogbonna is preferred to Aguerd or not. A game at Luton should see West Ham with a lot more of the ball, and Aguerd is a better option in possession, and defending counters.
A very impressive first start. Slots into the midfield very well, drops into defence to help effective use of the full backs going forward. He's ready for the physicality, strong in the air, but exceptionally calm on the ball. A real find for this team.
Was playing reasonably well before injury.
Bringing back the quick forward pass to get the attacks moving. And following it forward to be there and finish off the move, that is some perfect Moyes midfielding. And that's before you add in a great job protecting central areas, sliding to the wings to assist and throwing his body at anything he had to.
The appeal of Paqueta in a more orthodox left midfield role makes sense in a game like this, but it really only works when stuck defending this much. He's a game defender, and you could see why a dominant possession side might want him in deeper midfield positions. Pulled out a great pass to Antonio.
Diligent defensively, his pace was so important in helping quieten Mitoma, and he never shirks his responsibility. Combine that with a goal and an assist and it's a very good day at the office.
Selfless, hardworking and absolutely fantastic in a role that was thankless. He was on the fringes, but did fantastically with almost everything given to him. It was his work that earned the first goal. Let alone giving it to Ward-Prowse, he chased a ball that some would have left as a lost cause. Brilliant for his goal, but most impressed by the work and pass to start the move for Bowen's goal. Magnificent.
(Relaced Soucek, 39) Wasn't having an impact on the game, but then produced the magic that you put him into the team for.
(Replaced Antonio, 79) Quietly slotted into a back five.
(Replaced Alvarez, 85) Solid and worked hard.
(Replaced Paqueta 85) One big header off the line saved a goal.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Edson Alvarez, Tomas Soucek, James Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: James Ward-Prowse 19 Jarrod Bowen 59 Michail Antonio 63 .
Booked: James Ward-Prowse 24 Edson Alvarez 45 Thilo Kehrer 88 .
Sent off: None.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Verbruggen, Milner (Veltman 72), Webster, Dunk, Estupinan, Gross, Gilmour (Lallana 60), March (Adringa 72), Ferguson, Mitoma, Welbeck (Joao Pedro 60).
Subs not used: Steele, Julio, Dahoud, van Hecke, Buonanotte.
Goals: Gross (81).
Booked: Mitoma (88).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: Alphonse Areola.