Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: West Ham United

Did West Ham drop two points in the 3-3 draw at the London Stadium on Saturday or did a battling Albion snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat?

By Nick Szczepanik • 02 February 2020

By Patrick Sullivan
Nick Szczepanik delivers the media's verdict on Saturday's game.

You would be forgiven for supposing that the former was closer to the truth to judge by the Sunday Telegraph’s report. Ben Findon wrote that “West Ham's problems intensified when two agonising defensive blunders and a VAR controversy combined to help them throw away a two-goal lead against fellow strugglers Brighton.

“David Moyes’ men looked firmly on track for a much needed victory after two delicious volleys from Robert Snodgrass eased them 3-1 ahead by the hour mark.

“Snodgrass had also supplied the free-kick for Issa Diop's opener but West Ham's defensive frailties came back to haunt them.

“Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski punched the ball straight at Angelo Ogbonna to give Brighton a way back just after the interval, and Diop was culpable as Pascal Gross rolled the ball in to set up a grandstand finish.

“Salt in the West Ham wounds came when Glenn Murray grabbed Brighton's equaliser after lengthy consideration by VAR officials. Home supporters were certain the Brighton striker had handled as he brought the ball under control.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Pascal Gross challenges Mark Noble.

Ditto Gary Jacob in the Sunday Times “It was typical of West Ham United to fail to capitalise on the good fortune of two deflected goals, by throwing away a 3-1 lead against a relegation rival.”

A hint of capital bias crept into north Londoner Jacob’s description of Muzza’s leveller as he began: “Worse followed three minutes later. Davy Propper crossed and Murray controlled the ball, seemingly off either his hip or arm before he rifled low into the corner. He ran behind the goal to celebrate in front of the away fans and returned to the pitch to see that Michael Oliver, the referee, had chalked off the goal for a handball.

“Murray vehemently complained and VAR took several minutes to decide that the ball struck the striker’s hip. The goal was given and when replayed on the big screen, it invited anger from the home fans. It could have been worse still had Fabianski not made a good save to tip over Solly March’s free kick in stoppage time at the death.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Adam Webster contests an aerial challenge for the ball.

Nick Ames was more even-handed in The Observer, claimed, "The away side could travel home feeling relatively buoyant, their unwavering devotion to constructive approach play bearing fruit with two goals in the final 15 minutes; but this result has the potential to be disastrous for West Ham.

“They were playing with something approaching control when Arthur Masuaku, who had come on as a substitute, attempted a pass infield and saw Leandro Trossard anticipate his intention. The ball spun towards the box and its flight appeared to baffle the centre-backs, Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna, who hesitated under little pressure. Ogbonna attempted a header back towards Fabianski but Pascal Gross, quite decisive by contrast, nipped in to prod a slow-motion finish.

“It was knockabout stuff and Moyes was equally exasperated by what happened four minutes later. VAR initially seemed to have offered a lightning rod for West Ham’s fury when, after a lengthy delay, it ruled Glenn Murray had not handled before drilling Davy Propper’s cross past Fabianski. The home crowd were incensed but the decision, which reversed Michael Oliver’s original decision to disallow the goal, was correct.

“A defeat would have been unfair on Brighton … and there might not have been too much argument if Trossard or Solly March had won it at the very end. Their manager, Graham Potter, was pleased with the ‘good quality, good personality, good character’ shown by his players. The selection of Murray, who had not started in the league since 14 September, paid dividends.

“Potter said the pair had ‘lots of honest conversations’ during the transfer window about the 36-year-old’s wish for regular football and will surely now use him more as Brighton look to escape the mire. West Ham, who at least saw a good debut in midfield from Tomas Soucek and have Jarrod Bowen waiting in the wings, could do with nous like Murray’s.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Glenn Murray shrugs off Angelo Ogbonna last weekend.

Adrian Kajumba of the Mail on Sunday was arguably most positive of all the national reporters in his assessment of Albion’s performance. “Following Brighton’s stirring comeback, sealed by Glenn Murray’s controversial, VAR-awarded equaliser which earned them a bonus point in their own survival bid, West Ham ended the night in the drop zone.

“While West Ham’s defending for Brighton’s first two goals was awful, Brighton deserve credit for not letting their heads drop and forcing the situations that led to the home side’s mistakes.

“Potter has bravely battled on this week after losing his father on Thursday following the passing of his mother in the summer.

“He credited both of his parents for giving him the resilience to respond in tough times and setbacks and has instilled similar qualities into his team on the evidence of this comeback.

“From Davy Propper’s cross, Murray controlled and fired the ball past Fabianski wheeling off in delight, the only person in the stadium oblivious to the fact that referee Michael Oliver had ruled the goal out for handball.

“Murray was adamant he was innocent and VAR Andre Marriner agreed with him, eventually advising Oliver to award the veteran striker his goal.

“Murray has barely started in the league this season, could have left during the January transfer window and has only scored once before arriving at the London Stadium.

“Almost inevitably, though, he had to be there to face West Ham and find the net.

“They are his favourite opposition and this was his eighth goal in eight career appearance against the Hammers.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Davy Propper plays a pass on Saturday.

Ironically, it was on the website of London’s own Evening Standard that the only report that led on Albion was to be found, by the Press Association’s Andy Sims. He wrote: “West Ham’s nemesis Glenn Murray scored a controversial late equaliser as Brighton snatched a 3-3 draw at the London Stadium.

“The veteran striker, starting a Premier League match for the first time since September, grabbed his seventh career goal against the Hammers in the 79th minute.

“The ball appeared to hit Murray's arm before he fired home but a VAR check decided otherwise, to disbelief in the stands when the replay was shown.

“It completed a remarkable comeback for Graham Potter's side, who were 3-1 down thanks to an Issa Diop effort and a double from Robert Snodgrass.

“West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna had already scored an own goal before Pascal Gross pounced on some woeful defending to halve the deficit and Murray found the net to secure a share of the spoils.”