Southampton 0-1 West Ham United
SEBASTIEN HALLER’S first-half goal proved to be decisive as out of sorts West Ham United edged this Premier League relegation six-pointer with Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.
Speculation was rife amidst reports suggesting a defeat would see the end of Manuel Pellegrini’s reign at the London Stadium.
“Well, of course, all of us know we need the results. We have just five points from the last nine games, the Chilean explained ahead of the game.
“We need to return to being a consistent and solid team in the way we did against Chelsea and for 60-65 minutes against Arsenal. The points that we have are not enough for this team.”
Southampton went into the game occupying one of the relegation places. Nevertheless, since losing 9-0 at home to Leicester City in late October, the Saints had mustered seven points from six matches and knew another victory would ensure they leapfrogged the Hammers and leave Pellegrini in what many believed to be an untenable position.
“I think that lots of teams in this league have had bad runs,” Pellegrini added.
“Good team with good players as all the other teams in the Premier League, and you must be very concentrated in defending and try to score as well. They have good players and it will be a tough game.”
West Ham were handed a blow with Felipe Anderson missing the trip due to illness. And they were feeling a little hard done by just three minutes in when an assistants flag chalked off a Declan Rice header, this after Robert Snodgrass had picked him out.
But it had been a bright start from the east Londoners in what otherwise proved to be a fairly dull opening period. Pablo Fornals saw his effort deflected behind after Michail Antonio had fashioned an opening. Meanwhile, a wayward effort from Cedric Soares all the Saints had to show for their meagre early toil.
But West Ham were generally bossing the contest and eight minutes before the break they took the lead. Haller arrowed low beyond Saints stopper, Alex McCarthy – this after Fornals had cushioned Antonio’s centre into his path. The Hammers players dashed towards the bench in celebration – perhaps in an act of solidarity for their beleaguered boss.
McCarthy stuck out a big hand to divert away as Fornals looked to double the Hammers advantage immediately after the interval, while a VAR check ruled out a second West Ham goal after Antonio had handled while bludgeoning his way clear of a static Saints backline.
As had been the case during the first hour against Arsenal – West Ham were controlling the contest. However, without the comfort of another goal, a nervousness hung menacingly over the sizable travelling support. Moussa Djenepo curled over, while Danny Ings hit the underside of the woodwork after turning on the proverbial sixpence as Southampton rallied.
Saints fans thought they had restored parity when Ings rocketed into the top corner of David Martins’ net, only for the effort to be disallowed after Fredericks was fouled by Djenepo in the build-up. West Ham responded – McCarthy brilliantly saving Haller’s goalbound header.
The Hammers were forced deeper and deeper. Skipper Hojbjerg scuffed a glorious opportunity the wrong side of an upright, while substitute Stuart Armstrong found Martin’s midriff as the Saints pushed desperately for an equaliser.
But it was to be West Ham’s day. This victory moved them four points clear of the dropzone – plunging Southampton deeper into trouble in the process.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Thursday, December 26 when they take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (3pm).
Southampton: Alex McCarthy, Cedric Soares (Che Adams 87’), Jack Stephens, Shane Long (Stuart Armstrong 84’), Danny Ings, Moussa Djenepo, James Ward-Prowse, Ryan Bertrand, Natan Redmond (Oriol Romeu 46’), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Capt), Jan Bednarek Subs not used: Angus Gunn (GK), Maya Yoshida, Jannik Vestergaard, Michael Obafemi
Booked: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (foul)
West Ham United: David Martin, Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena, Robert Snodgrass (Andriy Yarmolenko 73’), Mark Noble (Capt) (Issa Diop 88’), Pablo Fornals, Angelo Ogbonna, Sebastien Haller (Carlos Sanchez 79’), Ryan Fredericks, Michail Antonio, Declan Rice Subs not used: Roberto (GK), Pablo Zabaleta, Arthur Masuaku, Albian Ajeti
Booked: Robert Snodgrass (foul), Ryan Fredericks (foul), David Martin (time-wasting)
Goals: Sebastien Haller 37’
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: Lee Betts and Daniel Cook
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
Reaction to follow…