West Ham put fitness fears and stumbling December behind them to set up European battle in 2022

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  • Mark Noble
    Mark Noble
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • David Moyes
    David Moyes
    Football Manager
  • Tomáš Souček
    Czech association football player
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

After a chaotic and damaging December threatened to derail their year, West Ham ended 2021 on a high with victory at Watford, coming from behind in fine fashion to move back to within four points of the Champions League places.

Given their spectacular rise over the calendar year it was a fitting way to sign off as Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and Nikola Vlasic - with his first goal for the club - all struck after Watford had taken an early lead.

Hammers manager, David Moyes had lambasted his defenders for recent shoddy displays after their Boxing Day defeat to Southampton and he would have been spitting feathers once again after just five minutes here when some slack defending allowed Emmanuel Dennis to fire the Hornets ahead.

Moyes had also raised concerns over Watford having had a break of 18 days since their last game - due to Covid postponements - compared to the Hammers’ one, but the proceeding 85 minutes showed that the east Londoners had more than enough in the tank.

Having see-sawed against Southampton, West Ham fought back and showed far more control here.

The visitors dominated after Dennis’s opener, with Benrahma sending an effort dipping onto the crossbar, and the Hammers struck when Jarrod Bowen, who was a menace throughout, fed Soucek who fired first time and low for his third Premier League goal of the season.

Two minutes later and West Ham were on top as Benrahma netted his second in as many games, converting after a good cutback from Michail Antonio, who was much improved again here.

West Ham were in total control from there and saw an early second half goal chalked off following a VAR review, though the video assistant swung in their favour minutes later after Darren England, the referee, was sent to the monitor after Bowen had drawn a foul from Austrian goalkeeper, Daniel Bachmann.

Mark Noble, excellent in replacing the suspended Declan Rice on his first league start of the season, was composed from the spot and put the game beyond their hosts.

West Ham looked back to their best here, albeit against an out-of-practice and Covid-hit Watford, showing why this has been such an impressive calendar year for the east Londoners.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

As if the year could not end in better fashion, Moyes was able to celebrate a first goal for summer signing Vlasic, who has plugged away in search of his maiden strike and was handed it on a plate by Bowen in stoppage time.

“I think it has felt like a big wait for us all for him to get a goal but he has shown really good finishing [in training] in the work we do,” said Moyes.

“He can score, he is accurate and has power, but he has not really got himself a chance or an opportunity.

“I have to say today Jarrod made it really easy for him but ultimately hopefully it will help Niki and it is good the players understood how much it meant to him.”

The West Ham manager wants his side to kick on through January in order to continue their fight in Europe, this couldn’t have been a better way to set that up.

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