A goal and three assists from West Ham United’s club-record winger Marko Arnautovic aided them to an emphatic 1-4 thrashing of David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town in the Premier League at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Returning Captain Mark Noble had put David Moyes’ men a goal ahead early on, but Joe Lolley avenged an earlier error to level things up just before half-time, leaving Arnautovic to volley home within 15 seconds of the restart and cancel his effort out.
The Austrian was then on hand to assist Argentina International playmaker Manuel Lanzini twice to make it three and four on the counter-attack, thus securing only a second League victory on the road this campaign for the East Londoners.
A worrying defeat on home soils for the Terriers means that they move below the Irons for the first time in their first Premier League tenure, whilst, the victors are now up to a season-high position of 11th and a mere nine points off a possible European spot.
From the start in Yorkshire, Terriers Manager Wagner decided on six changes in the wake of his side’s FA Cup Third Round victory over Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium last weekend.
Coming into the team was keeper Jonas Lossl, centre-back pairing Mathias Jorgensen and Christopher Schindler, Aaron Mooy, son of former Hammer Paul Ince, Tom and Rajiv van La Parra, they took the places of Joel Coleman, Terence Kongolo, Michael Hefele, Abdelhamid Sabiri, American Danny Williams and Colin Quaner, while new signing Alex Pritchard was on the bench.
Meanwhile, Hammers Boss Moyes made seven alterations to his starting Xl after their own Cup exploits, a 0-0 stalemate at the hands of Shrewsbury Town at the New Meadow on Sunday afternoon.
In goal, Adrian San-Miguel came back in for England man Joe Hart, whilst Pablo Zabaleta, James Collins and Aaron Cresswell replaced Reece Burke, Winston Reid and Irish youngster Declan Rice, further up the field, Josh Cullen, Andre Ayew and Javier Hernandez were all ousted in favour of Skipper Mark Noble and star men Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic.
From the very start in a chilly North, things were played out in an end-to-end manner against the backdrop of an electric Kirklees Stadium atmosphere, the game that followed would exceed the expectations of many.
Ironically, the match needed a goal to give it some life at least, and this came with the first shot on goal of any description on the 25-minute mark after both teams had threatened to go forward.
And it all came rather out of the blue, home keeper Lossl slid out a goal-kick to Lolley, making his first home PL start having signed from League Two Port Vale three years ago.
The youngster wasn’t quick enough to react to danger, however, and the lurking Arnautovic pounced, nipping the ball away from him and sending it into the path of Captain Noble.
The 30-year-old converted past the Dane between the sticks with trademark composure and celebrated with the travelling Claret & Blue Army, a rare goal from open play for him.
It could have easily been more for the Hammers after this with Lanzini and Arnautovic looking dangerous on the break frequently, but they were soon made to pay for wasting the openings.
A brilliant Town passing move found its way to Lolley who turned superbly and glided into the box before unleashing a curling effort that gave Adrian no chance and raised the roof on the John Smith’s.
His strike ha made the affair anyone’s for the taking and level at the break, although Huddersfield were in for a huge shock within a mere 15 seconds of the restart.
Kicking-off the second period, the visitors laid the ball back to Angelo Ogbonna, the Italian pumped the ball up Cheikhou Kouyate to flick it into the path of Arnautovic.
The Austrian showed tremendous skill to come away from Captain Tommy Smith, volleying emphatically into Lossl’s bottom corner from the edge of the box for his sixth of the season and his sixth in eight matches in all Competitions.
Moyes’ boys now had their tails well and truly up, threatening twice more through an Ogbonna header that was somehow scrambled to safety after a Cresswell corner and a Pedro Obiang break, the Spaniard coming very close to slipping Arnautovic through.
But, if individual skill had gifted him his strike, the genius of his teammates duly allowed him to set-up Lanzini to put the game beyond the hosts and seal a vital three points.
A simple and effective passage of passes between Kouyate and Obiang gave Arnautovic a run at the defenders, he assessed his options well and played a deft pass into Lanzini.
All that the “Jewel” needed to do was convert and he did so with such precision and composure, rippling the net in the bottom left position, he soon made Lossl pick the ball out of it once more just six minutes later.
You could say “counter-attacking Football at its best” to describe the cherry on the cake from a West Ham perspective as Kouyate set Arnautovic free on the right for an electric break.
He showed a great deal of pace to cut inside and leave his man for dead, eventually teeing up Lanzini, his touch onto the defender allowing him to rifle into the roof of the net, capping off a memorable outing for the Irons.
As the visitors held out, Wagner’s men did come close to claiming a late consolation goal, new man and substitute Pritchard testing out Adrian from a free-kick and the former Real Betis star pushing it to Laurent Depoitre, Zabaleta reacting quickest to snuff out the danger.
The encounter fizzled out after this leaving the home side winless in their last five League games and very much licking their wounds, they will need to pick themselves up as quickly as they can for a tricky trip to face Stoke City next weekend.
Meanwhile, next up for the happy Hammers will be FA Cup Third Round Replay with Shrewsbury on Tuesday evening at the London Stadium, before they look to keep an impressive run of only one defeat from the last eight League clashes going at home to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.