West Ham held on for a draw against Brighton and Hove Albion at London Stadium to stay sixth in the Premier League, one place and three points above their South Coast visitors.
The final game of the Premier League’s festive fixture list featured plenty of endeavour and a number of chances, most of which fell to the visiting Seagulls.
But a combination of wasteful finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Alphonse Areola ensured that the spoils were shared in Stratford, with Brighton recording their first clean sheet of the season in the process.
Both teams were missing key personnel, and it showed at times in a game that lacked spark for long periods.
Jakub Moder had Brighton’s best chance when he blasted over from close range.
Yet the result leaves West Ham and Brighton lying sixth and seventh in the table respectively, and well-placed for a push for the European places in the second half of the season.
Talking Point – West Ham hunker down in absence of X-factor stars
West Ham United enjoyed an outstanding December, but went into this match without a number of key players, and it showed.
With Lucas Paqueta out with a knee injury and Mohammed Kudus gone to the Africa Cup of Nations, West Ham were missing their two biggest X-factor players.
And, in their absence, David Moyes adjusted to a far more defensive style, sitting on defensive blocks and waiting to hit Brighton on the counter, primarily through Jarrod Bowen.
It wasn’t pretty, but it almost worked, with The Hammers creating a few decent chances over the course of the 90 and keeping Brighton at bay despite all of their possession.
Moyes will hope to have his stars back soon, and will be grateful for a quieter schedule in the coming weeks.
Player of the Match – Alphonse Areola (West Ham)
West Ham’s goalkeeper is a class act, and he made a string of important saves to ensure his side ended the night with a point.
Areola will be grateful that a lot of Brighton’s best chances were straight at him – most notably when Pascal Gross had a terrific headed opportunity from close range.
But the Frenchman did everything he was asked to do in yet another impressive individual display.
West Ham: Areola 8; Johnson 7, Mavropanos 6, Ogbonna 6, Emerson 7; Álvarez 6, Soucek 6; Benrahma 5, Ward-Prowse 5, Fornals 5; Bowen 7. Subs: Mubama 6
Brighton: Steele 7; Hinshelwood 8, van Hecke 7, Webster 7, Estupiñán 7; Groß 6, Gilmour 7, Milner 7; Buonanotte 6; Welbeck 6, João Pedro 7. Subs: Ferguson 6, Lallana 6, Moder 7
32’ – BRIGHTON GO CLOSE! A clever free-kick routine almost catches West Ham out as Areola is forced into a sharp double save in a goalmouth scramble.
43’ – SHOULD BE 1-0! Milner bends in a peach of a cross that puts a chance on a plate for Gross. His header is straight at Areola from point-blank range, and the chance goes begging. If he’d put that anywhere else it was 1-0 and the skipper shakes his head – he knows how golden a chance that was.
59’ – STRAIGHT AT THE KEEPER! Joao Pedro goes on a brilliant mazy run into the West Ham box, making room for a shot. But his final touch lets him down as he fires straight at Areola. That would have been a superb goal.
61’ – SO CLOSE TO AN OPENER! A Benrahma cross into the box takes a lucky deflection that lands to Soucek at the back post, but he skews his effort wide when it was easier to score. What a let-off for Brighton!
85’ – OVER THE BAR! Brighton are pushing hard for a winner here. A dangerous cross into the box is flicked on, with Moder arriving unmarked for a half-volley, but he skies his effort over the bar. De Zerbi sinks to his knees. That was a great chance.
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