Brighton bring West Ham back to earth with a bump
Glenn Murray’s first half strike ends Hammers’ resurgence on the south coast
Glenn Murray celebrates his winner for Brighton against West Ham. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 West Ham United 0
West Ham supporters must be sick of the sight of Glenn Murray. The veteran striker has now scored six times against them in the Premier League and took his tally for the calendar year to 12 as Brighton held out for a deserved home victory on the south coast.
Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are the only English players to outscore the 34-year-old in 2018 and there is no doubting his value to this Brighton side, with Chris Hughton’s side not having won since the opening day against Manchester United.
But even though Marko Arnautovic wasted a great chnace to snatch a point at the death following Murray’s first-half effort, it was a relatively comfortable night for a side who had looked in danger of being dragged into the relegation picture.
Brighton came into the game having previously failed to record a clean sheet so far this campaign – a statistic that would have troubled Hughton given last season’s success was built on defensive solidity. As if to underline his confidence in central defenders Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk, the news that they had both signed five-year contracts was announced hours before kick-off, while the recall of club captain Bruno - now 38 - was also designed to strengthen the backline which had already conceded 13 goals this season.
Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, [GAETEN]Bong may sound like a psychedelic 60s band but, as a defensive unit, has served Brighton well in gaining promotion and achieving 10 clean sheets last season. They were certainly expecting a test from a resurgent visiting side, with attacking trio Marko Arnautovic, Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko part of an unchanged side from the victory over Manchester United last week.
One unfamiliar name on the Brighton team sheet was Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who was handed his first Premier League start following his arrival for a club record £17m in the summer. The Iran forward showed some bright touches but struggled to make an impression in a congested midfield area in the opening exchanges, although Anthony Knockaert did manage to produce a shot on target in Brighton’s only real chance of note until Murray’s opening goal. Yarmolenko was slow to react to pressure from Beram Kayal whose brilliant cross left the 34-year-old striker with a simple tap in.
After losing their first four games of the season, West Ham seem to have found their feet under Manuel Pellegrini and they came close to an equaliser almost immediately, only for Bruno to produce a timely block as Arnautovic prepared to shoot. The ball fell to Pedro Obiang but his effort was high and wide of the target.
Pacing on the touchline, Hughton looked nervous and didn’t return to his seat in the dugout during the entire first half. He barely flinched when Jahanbakhsh fired over a volley from inside the box and only lost his temper whenever Brighton wasted possession. Who would be a football manager?
Pellegrini, by contrast, appeared relatively passive as he watched West Ham attempt to find their way back into the game after the break. Having shown a lack of the intensity on display during the wins over Everton and United during the first half, the Chilean will have been pleased with how his side responded.
Arnautovic, who came into the game carrying a knee injury, looked particularly dangerous but he sailed close to the wind after arguing with referee Kevin Friend over his booking for a studs up challenge on Kayal.
The Austrian’s prompting saw Fabian Balbuena’s effort deflected wide for a corner, only for the defender to then waste a golden chance having freed himself from the attentions of Murray at the back post.
The pressure was building and Pellegrini threw on Michail Antonio in place of Obiang - switching to 4-4-2 - in an attempt to sustain it. Brighton, though, remained a threat on the break and could have made the points safe had they been more ruthless with their passing.
Murray will have been disappointed not to have hit the target with a free header 20 minutes from time, while another effort looped agonisingly over Lucas Fabianksi’s bar. He did put the ball in the net in stoppage time but saw his effort correctly ruled out for offside, while Arnautovic blasted over from close range on an evening that Pellegrini will want to forget.