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.
Hammers on the rise
West Ham were in control throughout, with Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge denying Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice and Arnautovic in the first half-hour.
Aside from Ralls’ penalty, 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.
West Ham, who recorded consecutive league wins for the first time since January 2017, face five more teams in the bottom half of the table in December.
Their sole defeat in six league games came against champions Manchester City in November.
The only negative in another dominant Hammers performance was Arnautovic’s hamstring injury.
Cardiff’s away blues go on
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.
With three more away games and a home match against Manchester United this month, Cardiff face the prospect falling into the relegation zone before New Year.
‘How are we losing 3-0?’ – what they said
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.”
Man of the match – Lucas Perez
Super sub and double assists – the best of the stats
- Perez became the first West Ham player to score twice as a substitute in a Premier League match since Paulo Wanchope against Newcastle in April 2000.
- Fabianski has saved the past three penalties he has faced in the Premier League, having saved only two of his previous 19.
- Snodgrass provided two Premier League assists in a game for the first time since December 2012 (for Norwich against Swansea).
- 62% of Antonio’s Premier League goals have been headers (13 of 21). Of players to have scored at least 20 goals in the competition, only Sami Hyypia (77%), Sol Campbell (75%) and John Terry (66%) have scored a higher ratio with their head.
West Ham host Crystal Palace on Saturday at 15:00 GMT, when Cardiff welcome fellow strugglers Southampton.