Brighton survived a late West Ham fightback to run out 5-4 winners in a nine-goal WSL thriller at the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday.
Brighton had Amy Merricks in charge for the first time following Hope Powell’s resignation on Tuesday, and had trailed 1-0 after two minutes and then led 5-2 with six minutes remaining in a breathless encounter, before West Ham found their second wind in the dying stages to set up a enthralling finish.
It was a game where all preconceptions were thrown out of the window; Brighton had scored just twice in their previous five WSL matches, failing to find the net in four of their five league outings this season.
West Ham, meanwhile, were renowned for their strong first half performances this term, before fading in the second. The Hammers were yet to score in the second period in the WSL this season – they netted three against Brighton on Sunday.
For a game that defied conventions, it started routinely. West Ham continued their habit of bursting out of the blocks as they opened the scoring inside three minutes, Lisa Evans’ cross-come-shot looping straight in.
Then the chaos commenced.
Dan Carter levelled for Brighton after eight minutes with her first goal of the season, capitalising on a Sophie Hillyerd error, before turning provider with a low cross for Veatriki Sarri to poke home to make it 2-1 after just 11 minutes. Brighton took a 3-1 lead into the break as Carter doubled her tally from the penalty spot.
West Ham halved the deficit just after the hour mark as a Dagny Bryjarsdottir header deflected in off Victoria Williams.
But Brighton extended their lead once more, first through Elisabeth Terland turning home following a goal mouth scramble, before Jorja Fox netted her first goal for Brighton after the lively Carter’s cross had been palmed into her path.
The Hammers again fought back. Viviane Asseyi scored twice in the space of two minutes following two wicked Evans deliveries from the right to leave the scores finely poised at 5-4 with four minutes of normal time to play.
West Ham poured forward in stoppage time, Claudia Walker firing just wide after another Evans cross had wreaked havoc, but they couldn’t find a fifth as Brighton hung on for a dramatic victory.
West Ham player ratings
GK: Sophie Hillyerd (4); RB: Risa Shimizu (6), CB: Grace Fisk (5), CB: Kate Longhurst (5), LB: Kirsty Smith (5); CM: Abbeigh Leigh Stringer (7); CM: Dagny Brynjarsdottir (7); CM: Honoka Hayashi (6); RW: Lisa Evans (9), ST: Viviane Asseyi (8), LW: Thea Kyvåg (6)
SUB: Atkinson (6), Filis (6), Flannery(6), Houssein (6), Walker (7)
Brighton player ratings
GK: Megan Walsh (5); RB: Kayleigh Green (6), CB: Victoria Williams (5), CB: Emma Kullberg (5), LB: Poppy Pattinson (5); RM: Katie Robinson (7), CM: Danielle Carter (9), CM: Julia Zigiotti Olme (8), LM: Veatriki Sarri (8); ST: Elisabeth Terland (8), ST: Lee Geum-min (7)
SUB: Fox (7), Bance (N/A), Park (N/A)