Arnautovic double secures point against Brighton
A quick-fire double from Marko Arnautovic ensured West Ham United took a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.
A tepid first half was followed by a bright start to the second period for the Irons, but it looked like a disappointing opening to 2019 after goals for the away side by Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy.
Substitutes Mark Noble and Michail Antonio would turn the game back for the Hammers, however, providing an assist each in the 66th and 68th minute respectively for Arnautovic, who fired home and secured the draw.
It was the 2017/18 Hammer of the Year who registered the first chance of Wednesday’s Premier League encounter, sending a powerful shot goal-ward on 12 minutes. Arnautovic’s effort, however, was high and wide of the target.
The No7’s second chance just before the half hour mark was more in keeping with his usual quality.
Receiving the ball from Pedro Obiang, Arnautovic drove into space on the edge of the penalty area, before attempting a low effort into the far corner. David Button would make a diving save to deny the Austrian.
In between Arnautovic’s efforts, Felipe Anderson would enjoy arguably the best chance of the first period. Andy Carroll’s reverse header fell to Martin Montoya, but the Brighton defender’s clearance could only fall to the Brazilian. The No8 tried a first-time effort, but it was straight at the Seagulls shot-stopper.
Solly March fired Brighton’s best opportunity on goal, which Lukasz Fabianksi comfortably saved, meaning the first-half ended goalless at London Stadium.
Snodgrass had the first chance of the second period, before Felipe Anderson enjoyed a run into a dangerous area, shooting just wide.
Two efforts in two minutes seem to take the game away from West Ham, with Brighton taking a two-goal advantage. First, Stephens volleyed home from the edge of the penalty area after a Brighton corner was cleared to the midfielder.
On 58 minutes Duffy would poke home from another corner, and it appeared the Irons had been beaten in a short second-half spell.
Then came hope. Arnautovic bulleted an effort on goal, straight at Button. It may have been out of frustration, but the attempt seemed to spark the Hammers into life.
The introduction of Michail Antonio and Mark Noble followed, and it was their introduction that brought the match back for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
On 66 minutes, Noble played a terrific ball over the top, into the No7’s path. Arnautovic showed great composure to hold off Duffy before turning home. The comeback was on.
Once again, one goal would quickly lead to another, and West Ham were level just as the 59,870 fans in attendance finished celebrating the first. This time Antonio found space on the right flank, beating the defender before dragging back to Arnautovic. Once again, the 29-year-old made no mistake, lifting the ball into the top of the net.
Antonio seemed set to score one of the goals of the season after skinning his way into the penalty area, but the No30 couldn’t turn his shot on target.
Brighton held on, despite West Ham’s pressure, with the Irons coming back to earn a share of the points in the first game of 2019.
West Ham United: Fabianski; Zabaleta (c), Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Obiang (Noble 63), Rice, Snodgrass (Antonio 63), F. Anderson; Arnautovic, Carroll (Lucas Perez 46)
Substitutes not used: Adrian, Masuaku, Nasri, Diangana
Goals: Arnautovic 66, 68
Brighton & Hove Albion: Button, Montoya, Dunk (c), Duffy, Bernardo (Bong 73), March, Stephens, Propper, Locadia, Gross, Murray (Andone 72)
Substitutes not used: Steele, Balogun, Kayal, Bissouma, Knockaert,
Goals: Stephens 56, Duffy 58