By Gursimran Hans
With the exception of a good ten minutes or so at the end of the first half, West Ham were outclassed, outplayed and outfought as they slumped to defeat on the South Coast.
The Seagulls begun the first half on the front foot immediately and took the deserved lead when winning the ball after Javier Hernandez’s poor pass back to Mark Noble. The ball found Anthony Knockaert, who drew a foul from Aaron Cresswell. Whilst West Ham stopped, Brighton continued and Glen Murray was able to beat the offside trap before slotting home.
Pascal Gross had the next clear-cut chance but his acrobatic overhead kick never looked in danger of doubling the home side’s lead.
West Ham looked nervous and out of ideas whilst Brighton kept coming at them, full of energy, an excellent interception from James Collins prevented a through ball ending in a 1v1 situation.
Cresswell was at it again with a fine cross from the left-hand side, Sam Byram unmarked got his header on target but Brighton skipper Dunk was there to clear off the line.
It was Hernandez who got the equaliser, playing a one-two with Mario and taking out three markers, he took the ball onto his left then back onto his right and smashing it into the top corner.
Another Cresswell’s cross was just too much for Hernandez and Mario, as West Ham suddenly found an extra reserve of energy and looked more confident and calmer on the ball.
A poor corner and interception from Byram almost resulted in another dangerous counter but Collins put in a fine tackle on Knockaert.
Both teams began the second half with a high tempo but after Mario missed an interception, Declan Rice was forced to concede a corner. Gross’s corner went through the box and was picked up by Gaetan Bong who teed up Jose Izquierdo, who curled a stunning strike into the far top corner.
West Ham pegged their opponents back immediately, but the pace of Bong and Izquierdo allowed Brighton to counter at blistering pace and they were a lot better at keeping the ball, perhaps helped by the fact they had more men attacking.
It was the fullback on the other side, Ezequiel Schelloto who produced the next chance, bombing down the right flank with no challenge, but Gross headed his cross harmlessly over the bar.
Despite the disjointed performance on the pitch, the travelling supporters were in full voice backing the team but also showing frustration to the board.
Gross arrowed a low drive just wide after fantastic one-touch build-up play from the Brighton midfield.
German midfielder Gross would not need another invitation, after being given the ball from Ulloa after Collins’s clearance found Propper he fired a rasping shot into the bottom corner to give Brighton a 3-1 lead.
A delightful pass from substitute Solly March wrong footed Sam Byram before Gross’s finish with the outside of the boot produced a stunning save from Adrian as Brighton went looking for another goal, this prompted Byram being replaced by debutant Jordan Hugill.
Minutes later, West Ham finally had their first chance of the second half but Mario overhit his effort.
After fantastic wing play from Bong, a fine turn from Byram Kayal teed up March who fired other, West Ham were chasing shadows by this point, unable to live with their opponents.
In the end, West Ham were second best in every department and it really goes to show just how poor the club’s transfer business has been, time and time again the midfield was overrun despite West Ham not bringing in the defensive midfielder they need.
Brighton & Hove Albion – Ryan, Schelotto, Duffy, Dunk (c), Bong, Knockaert (March ’78), Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo, Gross (Kayal ’83), Murray (Ulloa ’72).
Unused Subs – Krul, Goldson, Bruno, Kayal, Baldock.
Goalscorers – Glen Murray ‘8, Jose Izquierdo ’58, Pascal Gross ’77.
West Ham United – Adrian, Collins, Ogbonna, Rice (Antonio ’65), Zabaleta, Byram (Hugill ’80), Kouyate, Noble (c), Mario, Cresswell, Hernandez.
Unused Subs – Adrian, Reid, Fonte, Hugill, Haksabanovic, Cullen.
Goalscorer – Javier Hernandez ’30.