West Ham produced a thrilling late comeback to stop relegation-threatened Huddersfield Town moving off the bottom of the Premier League for the first time since December.
Huddersfield led 3-1 with barely 15 minutes left before substitute Javier Hernandez inspired an incredible turnaround.
After Angelo Ogbonna thumped in a header to make it 3-2, Hernandez – who was introduced by Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini at half-time – scored twice in the closing stages to spark jubilant celebrations at London Stadium.
“We came back pretty good with the effort of the whole team,” the Mexican said. “In the second half we weren’t sure if we could do it but we could.”
When skipper Mark Noble cracked in a penalty to put West Ham ahead, few could have predicted the drama which would unfold in east London.
Huddersfield arrived without a victory on the road since November – and a mountain of injury problems – but their confidence was not dented as they levelled almost instantly through Juninho Bacuna’s free header.
And the away fans had more to celebrate when a well-worked free-kick ended in young forward Karlam Grant sidefooting them ahead.
Grant, 21, cracked a thunderous 25-yard strike into the top corner after the break, leaving many inside London Stadium shellshocked and heading for the exits as the match approached the final 15 minutes.
But Ogbonna’s header gave the home side hope, before Hernandez’s headed double crushed Huddersfield and left them 16 points adrift of safety with seven matches left to play.
The Hammers consolidated their place in the top half as a result, staying ninth in the table – two points behind seventh-placed Wolves – after earning a third straight Premier League win at London Stadium for the first time.
Experience proves the key for the Hammers
West Ham boss Pellegrini has been determined to get to the root of his team’s inconsistent performances this season, yet this thrilling match only served to show why the Chilean has been left frustrated.
The Hammers have taken points from home games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United this season, only to slip to away defeats at Brighton, Burnley, Bournemouth and Cardiff.
Against a Huddersfield side which had only taken six points on the road this season, many would have picked this as a home banker.
However, the Hammers struggled to break down an organised away side for the opening 75 minutes, with the likes of Marko Arnautovic – coming in from the cold to make his first start since January – and Felipe Anderson unable to produce the creativity which they showed earlier in the campaign.
And, although Huddersfield’s opening two goals came from set-pieces, there were plenty more worrying moments as the Hammers were often left exposed at the back.
But it was the introduction of former Manchester United striker Hernandez, and another Premier League title-winner in French attacking midfielder Samir Nasri, who was introduced for the final half an hour, which ultimately paid dividends.
Nasri showed the guile and composure which made him part of Manchester City’s success with a cool delivery from the right to the far post where Hernandez was left unmarked to stoop and head in the equaliser.
With momentum behind them, West Ham pressed for the winner and Anderson’s left-wing cross picked apart the away defence, allowing Hernandez to nip in ahead of Town keeper Jonas Lossl and head home.
“I think this is a match for the fans,” Pellegrini said. “I think everyone was disappointed when we were 3-1 down but we did well to come back.
“I really hate it when my team play bad. Winning or losing I want to play well. But winning is the important thing.”
How Noble has joined Di Canio and Cole – the stats
- West Ham have come from at least two goals behind to win on two other occasions in the Premier League, having done the same against Bradford in February 2000 (5-4) and Everton in March 2016 (3-2).
- This was just the eighth time Huddersfield have scored more than one goal in a Premier League game, but the first they have not gone on to win after seven previous victories and a draw.
- West Ham are unbeaten in 17 Premier League games in which they have scored a goal since a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal in August.
- Huddersfield scored as many goals against West Ham this afternoon as they had in their previous 11 Premier League games combined.
- Hernandez today became the first West Ham player to score two headed goals in a Premier League match since Michail Antonio against Watford in September 2016.
- Mark Noble became only the third player to score 40 Premier League goals for West Ham after Paolo Di Canio (47) and Carlton Cole (41).
After the international break, West Ham return to action on Saturday, 30 March with another home game against Everton (17:30 GMT).
Huddersfield go back on the road again, travelling to Crystal Palace on the same day (15:00).
More to follow.