Brighton 4-0 West Ham: Hammers thrashed by rampant Seagulls as fans turn on David Moyes
It is a good job West Ham have a midweek trip to sunny Cyprus to look forward to, because this was a day as grey as they come on the south coast.
A dozen times West Ham have played Brighton in the Premier League and still they are yet to win, six trips here to the Amex having delivered two draws and, now, four defeats.
None, though, have been as damaging as this. A 4-0 scoreline told only part of the story, for this was the afternoon on which the travelling support well and truly turned on David Moyes, first in fury at Said Benrahma’s half-time substitution and then with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “sacked in the morning” throughout a turgid second-half.
Whether the manager even makes it to AEK Larnaca and the Europa Conference League last-16 on Thursday remains to be seen. The club’s board have been stout in backing their man, but such toxic and widespread ill-feeling will be tough to ignore.
Alexis Mac Allister scored Brighton’s opener from the penalty spot, then set-up the second for Joel Veltman after the break with his near-post flick. Hammers right-back Ben Johnson was at fault in both instances, misjudging a high ball as Kauro Mitoma burst into the box and was bundled over by Jarrod Bowen, then dozing off as Veltman nipped in unmarked. Mitoma added the third from close-range, again sharper than Johnson at the far-post, before substitute Danny Welbeck completed the rout.
The gulf between the sides, though, was far greater than needing to be defined by individual errors. Moises Caicedo, who signed a new long-term contract on Friday, outshone Declan Rice in the middle of the park, while Solly March and Mitoma wreaked havoc from out wide. World Cup winner Mac Allister waltzed through the game while nominal rival Lucas Paqueta barely had a kick. Danny Ings, after his double against Nottingham Forest a week ago, was even quieter.
Moyes had stuck as closely as possible to the XI that started the Forest win, with only injuries to Lukasz Fabianski and Vladimir Coufal forcing the Scot to tinker as Emerson and Alphonse Areola came in.
Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi, serving a touchline ban after being red-carded at Fulham last month, made three changes from the midweek FA Cup win at Stoke, with Solly March and Pervis Estupinan both available again after injury, though the Seagulls were forced into another alteration inside a quarter-of-an-hour as Tariq Lamptey’s knee injury ended his afternoon.
Veltman was sent on in his place at right-back, but it was March ahead of him on the same flank who posed most of the home side’s early threat, swerving past two defenders before forcing Areola into a smart save at the near-post.
The opener came on 18 minutes, Bowen’s clumsy attempt to sprint back and atone for Johnson’s error punished by Mac Allister, who lifted high above Areola’s dive.
In response, West Ham mustered two decent openings within the space of 60 seconds, first as Bowen raced onto a loose ball from Estupinan’s fine tackle on Benrahma and then after Paqueta had slipped in Tomas Soucek. Both, though, were denied by Jason Steele, a bold selection from De Zerbi as regular No1 keeper Robert Sanchez was left on the bench.
Those chances were blips in a game otherwise completely controlled by the home side, who would have gone two-up before the break had Johnson not made a fine back-post clearance to stop Mitoma connecting with March’s cross.
At the break, Moyes replaced Benrahma with Pablo Fornals, a substitution greeted with a defiant chant of the Algerian’s name from the away end, the long-standing discrepancy between fans’ and manager’s view of a mercurial talent on show again.
The chorus repeated with more anger when, within six minutes of the restart, any hope of a comeback evaporated as Veltman all-but sealed the three points.
By now, the wheels were coming off. Rice and Soucek lost their heads and went into the book for needlessly late tackles. Bowen joined them with a card for diving, despite trying to stay on his feet. Ogbonna made a low block and hurt himself in the process, though that did not stop Moyes’ decision to replace him with Kurt Zouma minutes later being met with another airing of dissent.
Seconds after Zouma’s arrival, March and Gross combined to tee up man-of-the-match Mitoma and by the time Welbeck drove low for the Seagulls fourth in the dying minutes, the only small relief for the Hammers was that they had not been beaten by more.