Brighton and Hove Albion eased their relegation fears as they completed a league double over West Ham with a 3-1 win at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.
Chris Hughton’s side recorded their first league win of 2018 thanks to stunning second-half strikes from Jose Izquierdo and Pascal Gross, blowing open the 10,000th Premier League game between two sides looking over their shoulders in the battle to avoid the drop.
Glenn Murray had converted a one-on-one opportunity to put the hosts ahead in the eighth minute, only for Javier Hernandez to get West Ham an equaliser before the half-hour mark.
However, Izquierdo curled home with his right foot in similar fashion to his effort in Brighton’s 3-0 win over the Hammers last October, albeit this time Adrian – not Joe Hart – was the goalkeeper beaten by the Colombian’s precision finish from the left-hand side.
Gross secured all three points with a fine finish of his own in the 75th minute, James Collins’ weak clearance leading to the German firing home his fifth goal of the season from the edge of the penalty area.
West Ham’s first defeat in seven games came at the end of a difficult week for the club off the field, after they sacked head of recruitment Tony Henry following allegations he sent messages to an agent saying the club did not want to sign African players.
Brighton refused to play the role of welcoming hosts, Murray putting them ahead in the eighth minute with a goal that owed much to both Gross’s throughball and referee Roger East’s excellent decision to play the advantage rule.
The official allowed a move to continue after Aaron Cresswell’s late lunge flattened Anthony Knockeart on the halfway line, allowing the ever-alert Gross to put his team-mate in the clear to finish underneath the advancing Adrian.
But, just as was the case in the midweek draw at Southampton, Brighton failed to build on an early lead. They were fortunate not to concede when Sam Byram failed to head in fellow wing-back Cresswell’s cross in the 25th minute, sending a tame attempt straight at retreating defender Shane Duffy, but the equaliser arrived soon after from a more likely source of goals.
Hernandez accepted Joao Mario’s flicked layoff and, after twice threatening to shoot as he made his way across the penalty area from left to right, eventually let loose a rising drive that ripped into the roof of the net.
Yet while the Mexican’s effort was impressive, it wasn’t a patch on the goal from Izquierdo that crucially gave Brighton the lead for a second time in proceedings.
After a scrappy start to the second half, the Colombian brightened up a gloomy day on the south coast with a sumptuous curling finish that had both the height and accuracy to beat Adrian’s despairing dive and find the far corner of the goal.
Any hopes of a second West Ham fightback disappeared when Gross found the target in the 75th minute.
Having earlier headed over Ezequiel Schelotto’s cross wide of the target, the German looked far more assured with his right foot as he used two closing defenders as a screen to angle a drive back against the angle and beyond Adrian.