Match ends, Watford 1, West Ham United 4.
Watford 1-4 West Ham: Clinical Hammers secure top-10 finish
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini feels his team has "grown a step" as they clinched a top-10 finish for the first time since 2016 with an emphatic win over FA Cup finalists Watford at Vicarage Road.
Two goals from Mark Noble, plus one each from Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic sealed the points at Vicarage Road as Watford struggled after Jose Holebas was sent off for tugging back Michail Antonio.
Pellegrini, whose team have won their final three games of the season, said: "I think that we have grown a step this season and we are happy to finish the way we did.
"We have improved on points, goals scored and goals conceded. I think the fans have enjoyed it more than they did last season."
Captain Noble got them off to the perfect start against the run of play, swapping passes with Antonio before dancing past Christian Kabasele to slot home the opener.
Lanzini doubled their lead five minutes before the break, heading home after Antonio's rasping drive had been turned on to the crossbar by Ben Foster.
Gerard Deulofeu briefly gave Watford hope as he scored 11 seconds into the second half, but just two minutes later the hosts were reduced to 10 men as Holebas was dismissed for hauling back Antonio.
Watford visibly tired and Arnautovic took full advantage to seal the three points after Foster had saved Felipe Anderson's volley on to the post.
There was still time for Antonio to win a penalty for West Ham and Noble duly dispatched his second of the game past a wrong-footed Foster.
This result means Watford have managed just one win in six going into the FA Cup final with Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday.
Antonio sets tone for clinical West Ham
Antonio may not have got the goal his dynamic performance deserved but he played a crucial part in West Ham's victory.
He scored the winner in West Ham's last away game at Tottenham and his bristling threat caused Watford problems all afternoon.
He served notice of his speed early on, barracking past Kabasele only to be squeezed out by Foster.
Shortly afterwards he got the first of his assists, showing excellent strength to hold off challenges from three Watford defenders before unleashing a venomous strike that Foster turned on to the crossbar.
The West Ham players rushed to congratulate him as much as their goalscorer Lanzini, who nodded the rebound home.
After Deulofeu's goal briefly threatened a Watford revival, it was Antonio who nudged in behind the home defence and forced Holebas to tug him back, resulting in a red card for the defender and killing Watford's comeback.
He may have fallen a little easily for the West Ham penalty but there was no doubt that Kiko Femenia pulled him down, leaving Noble with the simple task of scoring from the spot.
It's been an inconsistent season for West Ham - excellent wins against Arsenal and Tottenham undermined by defeats at Cardiff and Brighton - but three successive wins to round off the campaign hints at a brighter future for Manuel Pellegrini's men.
Watford end league campaign on a low
For most of the season, Watford have been overachievers, winning their first four games and being a firm fixture in the Premier League's top 10.
Javi Gracia's side have been consistently solid, carried a real threat through Deulofeu and Troy Deeney, and made light work of the sides below them in the table.
They have secured their highest Premier League finish and best points tally, and have won plenty of friends with their performances.
However, since making the FA Cup final in dramatic fashion five weeks ago, their form has tailed off drastically and it looks a tall order for them to topple Manchester City's treble quest at Wembley next week.
At times, they looked good against Watford. Slick interplay spearheaded by Abdoulaye Doucoure and Deulofeu deserved more, and being two goals down after dominating the first half was harsh.
It might have been different had Lukasz Fabianski not pulled off a wonder save from Troy Deeney on the stroke of half time or referee Christopher Kavanagh shown Holebas a yellow card instead of a red for the challenge on Antonio just two minutes after Deulofeu had halved the deficit.
"We will appeal the red card," Watford manager Javi Gracia said. "It made it impossible for us and for a player to miss the FA Cup final based on that contact is not right.
"I want to recognise the work my players have done over the whole season as we have achieved the best season ever in the Premier League, and now we have the chance to play the FA Cup final."
Unfortunately for Watford, their brave resistance wilted in the May sunshine and the Hornets were grateful to their 36-year-old keeper Foster for his fine saves of Arnautovic and Antonio in the final quarter.
Manager Gracia has proved himself to be a canny tactician all season.
He will need all of his nous at Wembley next week.
Man of the match - Michail Antonio
'I didn't think it was a red card' - what they said
Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster: "We are really disappointed as we got into unbelievable positions and should have put the ball in the net. I didn't think it was a red card at all. It was a coming-together and one player has fallen down. I'm gutted for Jose Holebas that he won't play in the FA Cup final."
West Ham captain Mark Noble: "The fans can be excited for next season as we've played some really good stuff. If we'd played like we had for the last month, we'd be a bit higher."
More red cards for Watford - the stats
- Despite their defeat today, Watford recorded their highest season finish (11th) in the top-flight of English football since 1986-87 (9th place).
- West Ham won 15 games and picked up 52 points in the Premier League this season, both their most in a campaign since 2015-16 (16 wins, 62 points).
- Watford haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last 12 Premier League games - only once previously have they had a longer such streak in the competition (20 games between September 1999 and March 2000).
- West Ham have won consecutive away games in the Premier League for just the second time under manager Manuel Pellegrini, having previously won three in a row in December 2018.
- Since their return to the Premier League in 2015-16, Watford have picked up 16 red cards in the competitions, more than any other side.
- Only Paolo Di Canio (47) has scored more Premier League goals for West Ham United than Mark Noble (42).
- Gerard Deulofeu's goal for Watford (45:11) was the quickest at the start of the second half in the Premier League since January 2018 (also 45:11 - West Ham's Marko Arnautovic v Huddersfield).
- Manuel Lanzini scored his first Premier League goal for West Ham since the final day of the 2017-18 season (two goals against Everton on May 13, 2018).
Watford have their first FA Cup final in 35 years on Saturday, 18 May when they face Premier League champions Manchester City at Wembley (17:00 BST).
- 27KabaseleSubstituted forMariappaat 78'minutes
- 25HolebasBooked at 48mins
- 29CapoueBooked at 90mins
- 19HughesSubstituted forMasinaat 67'minutes
- 7DeulofeuSubstituted forGrayat 59'minutes
- 24FredericksSubstituted forZabaletaat 26'minutes
- 41RiceSubstituted forC Sánchezat 79'minutes
- 10LanziniSubstituted forWilshereat 67'minutes
- 8Felipe Anderson
- 15C Sánchez
- Chris Kavanagh
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Watford 1, West Ham United 4.
Attempt missed. Jack Wilshere (West Ham United) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Felipe Anderson.
Etienne Capoue (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Mark Noble (West Ham United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Etienne Capoue (Watford).
Attempt missed. Michail Antonio (West Ham United) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Marko Arnautovic.
Jack Wilshere (West Ham United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Craig Cathcart (Watford).
Felipe Anderson (West Ham United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Roberto Pereyra (Watford).
Attempt missed. Troy Deeney (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Mark Noble.
Attempt blocked. Andre Gray (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Offside, Watford. Etienne Capoue tries a through ball, but Kiko Femenía is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Troy Deeney (Watford) header from the right side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Adrian Mariappa.
Foul by Jack Wilshere (West Ham United).
Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, West Ham United. Carlos Sánchez replaces Declan Rice.
Goal! Watford 1, West Ham United 4. Mark Noble (West Ham United) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Substitution, Watford. Adrian Mariappa replaces Christian Kabasele.
Penalty West Ham United. Michail Antonio draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Kiko Femenía (Watford) after a foul in the penalty area.
Foul by Declan Rice (West Ham United).
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Michail Antonio (West Ham United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Felipe Anderson with a through ball.
Foul by Felipe Anderson (West Ham United).
Kiko Femenía (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Watford 1, West Ham United 3. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham United) left footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner.
Attempt saved. Felipe Anderson (West Ham United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Pablo Zabaleta with a cross.
Attempt saved. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Michail Antonio with a headed pass.
Substitution, Watford. Adam Masina replaces Will Hughes.
Substitution, West Ham United. Jack Wilshere replaces Manuel Lanzini.
Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham United).
Will Hughes (Watford) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Arthur Masuaku (West Ham United).
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Arthur Masuaku.
Substitution, Watford. Andre Gray replaces Gerard Deulofeu because of an injury.
Attempt missed. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham United) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Mark Noble.