Full Time: West Ham 3-1 Cardiff City
Lucas Perez ended his near two-year goal drought in the Premier League with a brace that inspired West Ham to a 3-1 win over Cardiff City on Tuesday night.
Perez was named as a substitute for the game at the London Stadium but was brought on to replace the injured Marko Arnautovic five minutes before the break.
And, with West Ham still in the game thanks to Lukasz Fabianski saving Joe Ralls’ 35th-minute penalty, which had been awarded for Arnautovic’s barge on Junior Hoilett, Perez made his presence count with two goals in five minutes.
Michail Antonio completed the rout with his header from a corner to secure a win that moves the Hammers into 12th place while Cardiff remain just two points above the relegation zone.
Ahead of the match, Manuel Pellegrini called on his side to show the same motivation and energy levels that they showed when they beat Manchester United and drew 0-0 with Chelsea at the London Stadium.
But while the Hammers’ start was a dominating one, they failed to capitalise on the level of early possession they had – with Neil Etheridge keeping Cardiff in the game in the first half.
The goalkeeper tipped over the bar Angelo Ogbonna’s header from a corner kick while his counterpart down the other end of the pitch, Fabianski, proved crucial to keeping the score 0-0 heading into the break.
The 33-year-old was faced with the task of keeping out a penalty after referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot for Arnautovic’s barge on Hoilett in the area.
Fortunately for the hosts, Fabianski dived the correct way and kept out Ralls’ low spot-kick but West Ham were handed a blow minutes later when Arnautovic pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury and was forced off, and subsequently replaced, by Perez.
Cardiff seemed to be injected with confidence thereafter and Victor Camarasa was denied a goal by another good stop by Fabianski.
But the visitors lost concentration when they emerged from the break and West Ham punished them for it with three goals in just 12 minutes.
After a ball into the area was only cleared as far as Snodgrass, the 31-year-old chested it down and into the path of substitute Perez whose low effort took a deflection off Etheridge and into the back of the net.
It was the Spaniard’s first Premier League goal in nearly two years but the striker only had to wait another five minutes before he got another, this time after he latched onto Arthur Masuaku’s ball from the left and nutmegged Etheridge in the process.
West Ham were cruising as Cardiff were capitulating and just seven minutes later, the home fans were celebrating another goal after Antonio rose highest to meet a corner and guide it in.
Pellegrini reacted by bringing on Andy Carroll, who received cheers and applause from the home fans, for Hernandez but the striker couldn’t get a goal on what was his first appearance for West Ham this season though his side ran out comfortable winners in the end.
Josh Murphy added a late consolation for the visitors, scrabbling an effort over the line in added time.