Arnautovic scores twice in two minutes to salvage point for West Ham against Brighton

Marko Arnautovic scored twice in two minutes for his sixth and seventh Premier League goals of the season

Marko Arnautovic scored twice in two minutes as West Ham came back from 2-0 down to earn a point against Brighton and end a run of the three consecutive defeats against the Seagulls.

The Austrian striker, who has been linked with Chelsea, proved his value again for the Hammers by turning around a game which came to life after a drab first half where Andy Carroll made his first start in exactly a year.

After Carroll was hooked at half-time, it was his replacement Lucas Perez, who failed to pick up Dale Stephens as the Brighton defender rifled the visitors ahead from the edge of the box.

Shortly afterwards, the Seagulls doubled their advantage when Shane Duffy peeled to the back post on another corner and controlled the ball on his chest before cleverly poking home.

Those were the eighth and ninth goals Brighton have scored from corners this season, but two further Manuel Pellegrini substitutions steered the game towards the Hammers.

First, Mark Noble chipped a lovely ball forward for Arnautovic to run onto before he hammered home from close range.

Then Michail Antonio cut the ball back from as close to the byline as he could get for Arnautovic to score his seventh goal of the season.

There were further chances for Antonio and Declan Rice to win it, but the point moved West Ham into the top half of the table.

When the disappointment of throwing away a two-goal lead subsides, Brighton will take solace in remaining unbeaten in three games over the festive period as they remain 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

Andy Carroll was caught by a Lewis Dunk elbow which went unpunished

Arnautovic shines as Carroll disappoints

Much of the attention prior to the match centred on Carroll, who made his first start in a exactly a year – when he scored twice to help the Hammers beat West Brom 2-1 – to freshen up his team.

But after only six appearances off the bench this season, the former Liverpool and Newcastle striker looked rusty as he miscontrolled the ball on several occasions.

A poor half was made worse when he was caught by a flailing elbow from Lewis Dunk that left the 29-year-old with blood running down his head.

And there was little link-up play between Arnautovic, 29, and Carroll, perhaps contributing to the fact that the Englishman did not emerge for the second half.

Perez dropped shorter to offer West Ham a different option up front but it was only after they conceded twice, and Noble and Antonio came on, that they really started to find their rhythm.

Immediately, they started to play the ball in behind the Brighton defence and it paid dividends.

There were chances in the first period as Arnautovic tested David Button in the Brighton goal and Felipe Anderson wasted a decent chance at the edge of the area.

But after seven games in December and four in the last 12 days, the hosts struggled as Brighton started faster and took advantage after the interval.

That was before Arnautovic ensured there was a positive start to the year after a poor 2-0 defeat at Burnley on 30 December.

Brighton set-piece expertise pays off again

Chris Hughton’s side can temper the disappointment of losing their lead with the fact that, until their quickfire double, they did not create great deal.

They also continued their unbeaten run against West Ham over the last two seasons and have gained five points over the festive period after losing their previous three Premier League games.

The fact that both goals came from corners underlined the diligence and organisation that runs through this Hughton team, which looks more than capable of remaining in the top flight for a second successive season.

The first was fortunate given that neither Perez or Robert Snodgrass chose to pick up Stephens as he scored from the edge of the area with a well-taken strike.

But the second goal, when Duffy found space, looked like it was straight off the training ground as Brighton sent their travelling supporters wild.

Although Hughton will rue a chance to chalk up an third away win of the season, he will also be wise to the fact that West Ham had won five of their previous seven games prior to this contest.

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