The Seagulls flew into their second home fixture of the new Premier League season with a perfect record that they were keen to build upon. They sat in the top four, and came into this clash looking for their third straight win. In order to do that, they would have to overcome a West Ham United side who inflicted Mauricio Pochettino’s first defeat as Chelsea boss last time out. David Moyes’ men come into this, like Brighton, unbeaten.
BHA: Verbruggen; Estupinan, Webster, Dunk, Milner; Groß, Gilmour, March; Ferguson, Mitoma, Welbeck
WHU: Areola; Coufal, Ogbonna, Zouma, Emerson; Ward-Prowse, Soucek, Alvarez; Paqueta, Bowen, Antonio
A sunny evening down on the South Coast saw West Ham start as the brighter of the two sides in terms of chances. Lucas Paqueta, recently linked with a move to champions Manchester City, volleyed over the bar from an acute angle with not even a minute gone. Michail Antonio then teased new Brighton goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen with a low effort, but the Dutch U21 international collected the shot comfortably.
As the game grew older, the Seagulls began to create chances of their own. Following a superb switch of play, Pervis Estupiñán found Billy Gilmour on the edge of the West Ham box, who fired a low shot just wide of Areola’s bottom left corner in what was the game’s best chance yet.
Although Brighton dominated the early stages, West Ham were benefitting from the better chances, and they took one of those with just nineteen minutes gone. Michail Antonio, who had been impressive in the opening stages, found recent signing James Ward-Prowse in the Brighton box – and the former Southampton skipper made no mistake as he took the ball round Verbruggen and smashed home his first West Ham goal to give the Hammers the lead.
West Ham may have had the lead, but Brighton continued to dominate and Pascal Groß tested Areola with just over five minutes of the first half to go, as his low drive was collected coolly by the Frenchman. Areola found himself in a mess a couple of moments later as he failed to claim the ball before Ferguson could pounce on the loose ball, but did claim it at the second time of asking.
As the first half neared its end, Brighton won a free kick on the edge of the West Ham box, with Hammers debutant Edson Alvarez earning a yellow card for the foul. Nothing came from it, however, as Solly March’s free kick was cleared by the just-cautioned Alvarez.
The second half started as Brighton would’ve hoped, as a brilliant pass from Lewis Dunk found Kaoru Mitoma down the left hand side. His cross then found Evan Ferguson in the box, who headed towards goal – only for Areola to save wonderfully from close range.
Another chance for Brighton came from a corner with just three minutes of the second half gone, as Groß’s cross found Mitoma at the far post, and the Japanese international could only balloon his volleyed effort over the bar.
West Ham had chances of their own to increase their lead, and they did just that with just over half an hour to go. Substitute Saïd Benrahma delivered a pinpoint ball into the ball where Jarrod Bowen took a couple of excellent touches and finished superbly into the bottom left hand corner past Verbruggen.
It got even better for the Hammers just five minutes later, as a superb lob over the defence from Bowen saw Michail Antonio latch onto the ball and smash home his second goal in two games to all but kill off hopes of a Brighton comeback.
David Moyes’ side almost added a fourth on multiple occasions when Antonio found Ward-Prowse on the edge of the West Ham box. The latter volleyed an excellent effort towards goal, but Verbruggen was in the right place at the right time to collect the attempt and prevent any further damage. Antonio found himself through on goal again moments later, but his close-range effort flew over the bar instead of finding the back of an open net.
With just under ten minutes to go, Brighton pulled back a consolation through Pascal Groß, as his low effort found the bottom left hand corner, evading the arms of Alphonse Areola in the West Ham goal.
Despite the scoreline, Brighton didn’t feel beaten, as they continued to find the chances. An excellent run into the box from substitute Joao Pedro saw his cross find fellow substitute Joel Veltman, whose volley stung the palms of Alphonse Areola, with the resulting corner not coming to fruition. Another huge save from Areola prevented Evan Ferguson’s rocket from reducing West Ham’s deficit late on in stoppage time, in what proved to be the final clear-cut chance of a game in which, in the end, West Ham deserved to head back to East London with all three points.
West Ham United now travel to newly promoted Luton Town next Friday, while Brighton face another tricky test at home against Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United on Saturday. Kick-off at Kenilworth Road is 8pm, while the AMEX hosts its second consecutive 5:30pm kick-off.