West Ham grab first win of the season as Haller strikes twice
PUBLISHED: 17:08 24 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:08 24 August 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers blasted their way to victory over pointless Watford with counter-attacking performance
Watford 1 West Ham United 3
The Hammers were hot stuff at sweltering Vicarage Road, where they scorched to their first victory of the season thanks to Mark Noble's early penalty and a deadly double-barrelled blast from record-signing Sebastién Haller.
Manuel Pellegrini's men got off to a dream start after their fit-again skipper netted from the spot on his 350th Premier League appearance and, although Andre Gray levelled a quarter-hour later, Haller showed just why the Chilean had paid £45million for him in the summer, when he stung the Hornets with two second-half goals that leave Javi Gracia's side still looking for their first point of the season.
Following their hard-fought draw at Brighton & Hove Albion last Saturday, the Hammers made four changes as they welcomed back Haller, Noble, Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko in place of Jack Wilshere, Javier Hernández and Robert Snodgrass plus substitute Pablo Fornals.
Having won 4-1 at Vicarage Road on the final day of last season, West Ham wasted no time carrying on from where they had left off as they quickly got on the front foot in their third match of the new campaign.
With just two minutes on the clock, Haller's powerful run took him clear of the Watford defence and, with the angle narrowing, the Frenchman squared to the unmarked Manuel Lanzini, who after being foiled by Ben Foster was then crudely upended by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
It was an obvious penalty and keeping his cool in the Hertfordshire heat, Noble calmly despatched the consequent spot-kick low to his left as the Watford keeper headed in the opposite direction.
With neither a win nor a goal from his opening two matches, Gracia had made a couple of switches from the side that had lost at Everton last weekend as Gray and Tom Cleverley came in for the injured duo of Troy Deeney (knee) and Roberto Pereyra (thigh).
But despite having seen his side fall behind so early, the Hornets boss would have been buoyed by the sight of Gerard Deulofeu popping up at the far post, where he lashed a rising, angled shot onto the crossbar and - after Lanzini sent another effort wide at the other end - Watford's former Barcelona starlet was then brilliantly denied in the act of shooting by Issa Diop.
Certainly, Deulofeu was keeping himself busy as he tried to get the Hornets back into the contest and, on 17 minutes, the Spaniard squared to Will Hughes on the edge of the area and he invited Gray to race behind the Hammers defence and equalise with a low, angled 12-yarder that flashed across the face of Lukasz Fabianski, into the far corner.
In reply, Anderson's deep cross was nodded back across goal by Yarmolenko but Haller's improvised overhead kick was comfortably gathered by Foster to keep the scores level as the two thirsty teams went into a drinks break on 25 minutes.
Suitably refreshed, Gray sent a couple of efforts towards the Hammers goal, while Anderson's curling effort was deflected for a corner which Angelo Ogbonna headed into Foster's clutches and, with the interval approaching Doucouré glanced inches wide before Cleverley ballooned high over from 12 yards.
By now, it was anybody's game as an entertaining encounter ebbed and flowed from end-to-end and, just before the break, Anderson headed Lanzini's inch-perfect corner onto Foster's right-hand upright and Kiko Femenìa scrambled clear to keep the first-half all-square.
Just after the restart, Yarmolenko's 18-yarder forced a full-length save out of Foster, who recovered smartly to gather as Haller raced in for the kill.
On 55 minutes, Hughes found himself guilty of the miss of the season, to date, when he skied over from all of one yard at the far post after Deulofeu's pass had allowed Gray to round Fabianski and roll the ball into the six-yard box.
Pellegrini responded by introducing Michail Antonio at the expense of Yarmolenko and, within seconds of his arrival, the Hammers substitute found himself clear on goal but still finding his feet, he over-ran the ball and Foster blocked, before also recovering to tackle the supporting Anderson.
But on 64 minutes, West Ham did, indeed, regain the lead, when Arthur Masuaku foraged forward before finding Haller, whose pass enabled Anderson to race to the byline. Haller's work was not done, though, and he instinctively continued his run into the six-yard box, where he collected the Brazilian's deft pass before opening his Premier League account with the simplest of tap-ins.
And not content with one goal, the Frenchman then doubled his tally just eight minutes later, when Antonio's diving header was brilliantly parried behind by Foster. Lanzini floated the consequent corner towards the near post, where Antonio was again foiled by the Watford keeper, who tipped his close-range header onto the crossbar but despite that save, Foster could do nothing to prevent Haller sending an overhead kick into the net to the delight of the sun-soaked Claret & Blue fans nestled behind the goal.
Gracia replaced Hughes and Deulofeu with Ismaïla Sarr and Danny Welbeck, who was soon upended by the consequently cautioned Ogbonna but by now the Hammers were well on their way to that welcome first victory of the season.
HORNETS: Foster, Femenìa, Holebas, Cathcart, Dawson, Capoue, Doucouré, Cleverley (Quina 86), Hughes (Sarr 72), Deulofeu (Welbeck 72), Gray. Unused subs: Gomes, Janmaat, Chalobah, Kabasele.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Fredericks, Masuaku, Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko (Antonio 55), Anderson (Fornals 77), Lanzini (Sánchez 87), Haller. Unused subs: Roberto, Balbuena, Zabaleta, Ajeti.
Booked: Holebas (63), Ogbonna (76).
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ilford Recorder. Click the link in the orange box below for details.