Defensive frailties cause Hammers a headache

West Ham United v Southampton – Premier League – London Stadium – Report

West Ham United 2-3 Southampton

Injury-hit West Ham United displayed their continued struggle for consistency, allowing lowly Southampton to leave the London Stadium with only their fourth Premier League victory of the season.

Following their midweek Carabao Cup exit at Tottenham, Hammers boss, David Moyes had expressed the need to rediscover their early-season form: “We know we have to win the games. We’re not going to finish high up if we don’t win the games,” the Scotsman explained. 

“We’ve got ourselves into a really strong position – probably a stronger position than we were at this time last season – so from that point of view, we see it as a positive.

Yes, we’d like to be challenging the team in third, to try and get that position, but at the moment we’re trying to get back up to fourth.

“We’ll use every opportunity to do so, but as you well know the season chops and changes as you go along. We’ve had a really good year and we want to finish it strongly to go into next year knowing we’ve got a team here who can compete, challenge and be as successful as we possibly can.”

What with rising COVID cases a huge concern, there was a notable number of empty seats scattered around the stadium. But for those of a Southampton persuasion, there was an early goal to celebrate.

Mohamed Elyounoussi struck a sweet. left-footed effort low beyond Lukasz Fabianski with their first notable foray forward – Kyle Walker-Peters involved in the move – the home side stunned.

Indeed, an uneasy atmosphere was emerging through the misty rain. The home side needed to find a response – Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma probed – the Saints sat deep, absorbed and rebuffed the hosts tentative offerings.

Elyounoussi passed up a reasonable opportunity to double the Saints advantage. The Norwegian international fired directly at Fabianski after wriggling clear. Meanwhile, Frasier Forster produced an excellent one-handed save, low to his left, denying the marauding Nikola Vlašić, who had seized on some hesitant defending and roamed forward.

Moyes replaced in ineffective Vlašić and Pablo Fornals with Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini – The former making an immediate impact. Bowen’s flag-kick was nodded back by Craig Dawson – Antonio on0-hand to head firmly past Forster. VAR approved. The home side, back in business.

The dynamics of the contest appeared to shift, Declan Rice whistled the wrong side of an upright as the tempo and mood appeared to change. But then VAR again took centre stage. Broja and Dawson clashed, initially outside the box. Referee, Kevin Friend was invited to have a second look. – James Ward-Prowse stepped up to beat Fabianski from the resulting spot-kick.

Again, West Ham hit back. Within two minutes. Benraham swept home Bowen’s low centre. The crowd lifted, albeit briefly.

The Hammers defensive frailties were swiftly exposed Jan Bednarek’s glancing header fizzed past the outstretched hand of Fabianski. Saints ahead for the third time.

The outcome further highlighted the Hammers desperate need for reinforcements, particularly defensively, once the transfer window opens. West Ham United return to Premier League action on Tuesday, December 28 when they face Watford at Vicarage Road (3pm).

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Masuaku, Rice (Capt), Souček, Fornals (Lanzini 46′), Benrahma (Yarmolenko 80′), Vlašić (Antonio 46′), Bowen Subs not used: Areola (GK), Fredericks, Ashby, Johnson, Noble, Král

Booked: Craig Dawson (foul), Declan Rice (foul), Jarrod Bowen (foul)

Goals: Michail Antonio 49′, Said Benrahma 63′

Southampton: Forster, Livramento, Salisu, Bednarek, Walker-Peters, Elyounoussi, Romeu (Diallo 90+2′). Ward-Prowse (Capt), Redmond, Walcott (S. Armstrong 88′), Broja (Adams 80′) Subs not used: Caballero (GK), Long, A. Armstrong, Perraud, Simeu, Valery

Booked: Broja (foul)

Goals: Mohamed Elyounoussi 8′, James Ward-Prowse (penalty) 61′, Jan Bednarek 70′

Referee: Kevin Friend

Assistants: Simon Beck and Adrian Holmes

Fourth Official: Robert Jones

VAR: Craig Pawson

Assistant VAR: Darren Cann

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]