Watford 1-4 West Ham: Visitors return to winning ways with emphatic victory at Vicarage Road

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Rest is overrated, it seems, compared to the rhythm gained from playing regularly.

One of these teams had not played for almost three weeks due to a Covid-enforced break. The other were being pressed into their third game in just six days. So who looked by far the sharper and emerged victorious?

Of course it was West Ham in the midst of their punishing schedule rather than Watford who were in action for the first time since December 10. 

Mark Noble (right) celebrates after scoring for West Ham in their comfortable win over Watford

Mark Noble (right) celebrates after scoring for West Ham in their comfortable win over Watford

The West Ham players celebrate their third goal of the game at Vicarage Road on Tuesday

The West Ham players celebrate their third goal of the game at Vicarage Road on Tuesday

MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE

WATFORD: (4-1-4-1) Bachmann 6; Femenia 5 (Louza 41, 6), Sierralta 6, Cathcart 6.5, Masina 5.5; Kucka 7; Hernandez 5 (Pedro 46, 6), Tufan 5 (Sema 62, 6), Sissoko 7, King 6; Dennis 7

Subs not used: Angelini (GK); Gosling, Fletcher, Morris, Conteh

Goals: Dennis (5)

Bookings: None

Coach: Claudio Ranieri 6

WEST HAM: (4-2-3-1) Fabianski 7.5; Coufal 7, Dawson 7, Diop 7, Johnson 7.5 (Masuaku 82); Noble 8, Soucek 7; Bowen 8, Lanzini 7.5 (Kral 89), Benrahma 7.5 (Vlasic 85); Antonio 7

Subs not used: Areola (GK); Yarmolenko, Fredericks, Okoflex, Alese, Ashby

Goals: Soucek (27); Benrahma (29); Noble (PEN 58); Vlasic (90+2)

Bookings: Dawson (81)

Coach: David Moyes 7

Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire) 6.5

Man of the Match: Mark Noble (West Ham)

Venue: Vicarage Road

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Watford’s period of inactivity would have undoubtedly brought its own problems.

They were only able to hold one full training session due to all their Covid issues while there was also the impact the virus may have had on his players to consider too.

What was not in doubt was that West Ham were fully-deserved winners, ending their five-game winless run to leapfrog Tottenham into fifth. 

Emmanuel Dennis gave the Hornets a fifth-minute lead for Watford with a beautiful strike

Emmanuel Dennis gave the Hornets a fifth-minute lead for Watford with a beautiful strike

The Watford striker smashes a shot into the top corner of Fabianski's goal after five minutes

The Watford striker smashes a shot into the top corner of Fabianski’s goal after five minutes

The Watford players celebrate Dennis' (No 25) opener in the opening stages of the game

The Watford players celebrate Dennis’ (No 25) opener in the opening stages of the game

Manager Moyes said: ‘The biggest thing for me was us to play again some 48 or 72 hours since we last played and be ready to go again and score four goals way from home.

‘Watford have had Covid and you wouldn’t want that but they’ve also had a period where there is a chance of recovery. A lot of teams at this time of year would love to have had a couple of weeks off.’

The full-time jeers following their seventh defeat in eight underlined that more was expected from Watford on their return to action.

Ranieri said: ‘I don’t want to take excuse but having the players for just one day to prepare, it’s not easy. This is a tough moment not only for Watford but all the world and we must improve ourselves.’  

However, Watford's lead was wiped out 23 minutes later thanks to a Tomas Soucek strike

However, Watford’s lead was wiped out 23 minutes later thanks to a Tomas Soucek strike

The Czech Republic midfielder arrived into the box to finish past Watford's Bachmann

The Czech Republic midfielder arrived into the box to finish past Watford’s Bachmann

Soucek celebrates while the West Ham players also praise Bowen for setting up the goal

Soucek celebrates while the West Ham players also praise Bowen for setting up the goal

Initially, there was little sign of rust from Watford when Emmanuel Dennis, one of the signings of the season, fired them ahead.

It was his 13th goal contribution of the season, a Premier League tally only bettered by Mo Salah. Where would fourth-bottom Watford be without Dennis?

Where they might be when he returns from the Africa Cup of Nations is probably something they would rather not think about right now, though Ranieri appeared to cast doubt on his final inclusion in Nigeria’s squad due to an admin issue.

Despite falling behind, West Ham carried a considerable threat and as the half progressed Watford’s defending was growing increasingly last ditch.

But they could only hold out for so long. Eventually, Jarrod Bowen played through Tomas Soucek who smashed in West Ham’s equaliser past a flat-footed Daniel Bachmann. 

Then, just two minutes later, Said Benrahma put West Ham in front to turn the game on its head

Then, just two minutes later, Said Benrahma put West Ham in front to turn the game on its head

The Algerian puts the ball into the back of the net after being thread through by Antonio

The Algerian puts the ball into the back of the net after being thread through by Antonio

Benrahma points to the heavens as he celebrates giving West Ham the lead in the first half

Benrahma points to the heavens as he celebrates giving West Ham the lead in the first half

A minute later Manuel Lanzini dispossessed Kiko Femenia before Michail Antonio’s cross was turned in by Said Benrahma with the help of a deflection off Adam Masina.

Falling behind given their prior form might have concerned Moyes but their level of performance would surely not have.

It was a largely impressive and controlled display from his side with veteran Mark Noble, in for the suspended Declan Rice and making his first league start of the season, at the heart of things displaying all his composure and experience. 

After Benrahma struck, the scoreline was a fairer reflection of their dominance. 

Jarrod Bowen thought he added to West Ham's lead early on in the second half but was denied

Jarrod Bowen thought he added to West Ham’s lead early on in the second half but was denied

Bowen managed to put the ball into the back of the net before running away to celebrate

Bowen managed to put the ball into the back of the net before running away to celebrate

However VAR instructed referee Darren England to check the goal, which was then turned over

However VAR instructed referee Darren England to check the goal, which was then turned over

Bowen was at the heart of the action once again after he was brought down inside the box

Bowen was at the heart of the action once again after he was brought down inside the box

VAR once again instructed England, who initially gave a corner, to check for a potential penalty

VAR once again instructed England, who initially gave a corner, to check for a potential penalty

Three minutes into the second half West Ham fans were cursing VAR when Bowen’s volley was ruled out following a foul earlier in the move by Soucek.

But it was soon back in their good books when Daniel Bachmann brought down Bowen in the box, a penalty that was only given and Noble scored after England performed another pitch-side check.

In injury time, £25m summer signing Nikola Vlasic applied the gloss, tapping in his first West Ham goal after brilliant Bowen build-up. 

The spot-kick was given which allowed club captain Noble to step up and score his side's third

The spot-kick was given which allowed club captain Noble to step up and score his side’s third

Noble sends the Watford goalkeeper the wrong way, successfully converting the penalty

Noble sends the Watford goalkeeper the wrong way, successfully converting the penalty

Noble wheels away in celebration after giving David Moyes' side a two-goal cushion

Noble wheels away in celebration after giving David Moyes’ side a two-goal cushion

Nikola Vlasic (left) celebrates with team-mate Alex Kral after scoring their side's fourth goal

Nikola Vlasic (left) celebrates with team-mate Alex Kral after scoring their side’s fourth goal

Vlasic puts shine on the result to cap off a brilliant day for Moyes' Hammers at Vicarage Road

Vlasic puts shine on the result to cap off a brilliant day for Moyes’ Hammers at Vicarage Road

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