Second half collapse for Bluebirds
Manager Manuel Pellegrini described West Ham’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Cardiff as a “special” game for Lucas Perez after he came off the bench to score twice at London Stadium.
Perez, who replaced the injured Marko Arnautovic in the first half, struck twice in five minutes early in the second.
He had not played more than 27 minutes in a league game since joining for a reported £4m from Arsenal in August.
“I don’t think he must prove anything. We know why we brought him here,” said Pellegrini.
“Lucas played very well. There are many reasons why players don’t play but it’s important for them to take their chance.”
After Perez’s double, Michail Antonio headed a third for West Ham, and Josh Murphy bundled in a consolation for Cardiff with the last touch of the game.
Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved a first-half penalty from Joe Ralls with the score 0-0.
West Ham moved up to 12th in the table, while Neil Warnock’s Cardiff have taken only one point from seven away games this season and sit two points above the relegation zone.
West Ham were in early control with Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge denying Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice and Arnautovic in the first half-hour.
Aside from Ralls’ penalty and a Camarasa freekick, Fabianski was rarely tested, while the hosts continued to pepper Cardiff’s goal as Rice, Ogbonna and Grady Diangana went close.
Perez scored his first league goal in 700 days following some sloppy Cardiff defending and a clever chip by Robert Snodgrass, and added a second when played in on the left-hand side of the penalty area by Arthur Masuaku.
Cardiff’s 95th-minute goal came when Fabianski flapped at a corner and his defenders failed to clear.
With only three goals, Cardiff have the joint-worst record in the league away from home – equal with bottom-of-the-table Fulham – and West Ham enjoyed 76% of possession in the first 20 minutes.
Arnautovic’s nudge on Junior Hoilett gave Cardiff an opportunity to take the lead against the run of play, but Ralls’ poor penalty was saved by Fabianski diving to his left.
Perez’s two goals early in the second half effectively settled the contest, and Antonio nodded in at the near post from Robert Snodgrass’ corner to underline West Ham’s superiority.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini: “It is important because we started the season badly.
“I was pleased to see the team not nervous when they didn’t score in the first half. We tried to continue believing in what we do.
“In the second half we improved, with better movement, and played the ball into space and into feet and players marked man-to-man.
“It would be more pleasing if we kept a clean sheet.”
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock: “I don’t know how we lost the game, let alone 3-1. I called Manuel over and said ‘how are we losing 3-0?’ And he said: ‘I don’t know’.
“You have got to put penalties away. The crowd were just about to turn and then we make it easy for them with three goals in 12 minutes and they don’t have to worry about a system or anything.
“I was more pleased than I was against Everton. We are hanging in there. I can’t fault them for effort.
“We haven’t got enough in the squad; we need two or three extras. It’s a long season and we need to help some of the lads that need a breather now and then.”
Mendez Laing 5.5 (For Ralls 64 mins)
Harris 6 (for Paterson 73 mins)
Murphy 6 (for Hoilett 64 mins)