West Ham United began their 2019 calendar yet with an eventful second half comeback to draw visiting Brighton 2-2 Wednesday evening at the London Stadium.
It was a fine battle from unexpected adversity from the Hammers, who were hell bent on not having back to back defeats close out their always hectic holiday period, and it was provided by great team spirit and the return of Marko Arnautovic from injury.
The first half exhibited how difficult the festive stretch always is towards the end, as both sides didn’t generate any clear cut chance. Only a penalty claim for Arnautovic that wasn’t given was the real “highlight” of a lowlight first half. Still, the Hammers looked the better side and were still favorites to win.
Out of nowhere though, Brighton took over the game with two excellent moments off set pieces to go up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The game’s first goal came off a corner from Chris Hughton’s side that lead to a terrific jumping left foot goal from midfielder Dale Stephens in the 56th minute. And less than 120 seconds after, the Seagulls got their second off another corner, as Shane Duffy cleverly got both away from Issa Diop’s marking and finished past Lukasz Fabianski.
But the Hammers showed the class they exhibited in most of December to come all the way back, and do it swiftly. Captain Mark Noble came on and delivered a great deep cross from midfield into the path of Marko Arnautovic, who held off the Brighton defense to slot home past David Button in the 66th minute to make it 2-2. Just like the Seagulls had done ten minutes prior, West Ham was able to score two goals in a two minute span.
And just two minutes later, the Hammers leveled the match at 2-2 to complete their comeback, as terrific work by Michail Antonio led to the versatile winer just keeping the ball in play and squaring to Arnautovic for the Austrian star’s brace on his return.
That is the end of the holiday period for West Ham United for this 20118-19 season. It’s now FA Third Round weekend for them, and their opponents for this installment on Saturday is Birmingham City, who will make their first trip ever to the London Stadium.