Red-hot Brighton hammer West Ham to stay in hunt for Europe

Brighton & Hove Albion’s Danny Welbeck celebrates scoring their fourth goal – Reuters/Toby Melville

Having seemingly turned a corner with a four-goal demolition of Nottingham Forest last week, it was 4-0 again for West Ham United this week.

Alas for them, outclassed by a sometimes dazzling Brighton & Hove Albion, the scoreline was reversed. Brighton trudged off the pitch wondering they hadn’t scored more, while in the wake of a shambolic performance, West Ham exited with the few away supporters remaining hurling vitriol at those players who came to thank them.

What now? Brighton have Europe in their sights. After such a performance, West Ham’s short and medium term is much less clear, but what is clear that they cannot go on like this.

A combination of a FA Cup clean sheet at Stoke City for Jason Steele and recent Robert Sanchez jitters resulted in a changing of the goalkeeping guard at Brighton. West Ham, meanwhile, had their own goalkeeping uncertainty. Lucasz Fabianski fractured his cheekbone against Nottingham Forest last week. Alphonse Areola started his first Premier League game in 14 months and  manager David Moyes began with two untried goalkeepers on the bench.

War Ham had the better of things until Ben Johnson allowed Soly March’s crossfield pass to sail over him. As head coach Roberto De Zerbi, serving a one-game touchline ban, looked on from the stands,  Kaoru Mitoma collected and charged into the area. Jarrod Bowen bundled him over. Alexis Mac Allister thrashed the penalty past Areola.

Undaunted, West Ham briefly rallied. Steele calmed whatever nerves he had with fine saves with his feet from Bowen and Tomas Soucek, but they struggled to break down Brighton in midfield, where Moises Caicedo – who signed a four-year deal in midweek – Pascal Gross and Mac Allister were both defensively and offensively imperious, while Mitoma always had too much for Johnson on Brighton’s left.

Six minutes into the second period, Brighton Settled it. March’s corner was nodded on by Mac Allister and, as Johnson looked on at the back post, Joel Veltman had all the time in the world to swivel and chest in. The away support chanted the withdrawn Said Benrahma’s name and suggested to Moyes that “you don’t know what you’re doing” and when Moyes’s next substitution was to replace one centre half with another, the  cries ran out again with a side order of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” with the home support on harmony vocals.

As the game sped away from them, West Ham lost their heads. Both Soucek and Declan Rice might have seen a different card to yellow after crude challenges. No matter, seconds after Kurt Zouma’s arrival it was three when Mitoma scored the goal he deserved, sliding in at the near post ahead of Johnson to tap Gross’s low cross in, following some terrific one-touch approach play.

There was even time for a fourth when Danny Welbeck collected Mac Allister’s cute pass, shrugged off Flynn Downes’s feeble challenge and fired past Areola.

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