Hammers ease past Saints to book Europa spot

West Ham United 3-0 Southampton

West Ham United eased to a three-goal victory over Southampton, making sure of Europa League football following a hugely satisfactory Premier League campaign.

Victory at West Bromwich Albion during the week meant the Hammers needed a single point to secure European football. Boss, David Moyes explained: “We want to try and finish on a high. We’ve got ourselves in pole position and we have to try and win.”

Moyes was buoyed by the return of fans as lockdown restrictions continue to ease: “It’s great and especially with the situation we’re in as well, it’s fitting that the players get the chance to be cheered because they deserve to be with how they’ve performed this season,” the Scotsman added.

Without a doubt, the home side took the field to one of the most emotional renditions of ‘Bubbles’ – the 10,000 making up for those missing and others, victims of the pandemic, never to return but forever in their hearts and minds.

Nevertheless, Southampton suggested they were there more than just to make up the numbers – Takumi Minamino a whisker away from handing the south coast outfit the lead following a lightning raid from deep.

Indeed, the Saints enjoyed the better of the early stages. Lukasz Fabianski hacked clear from Minamino and then blocked close range as Kyle Walker-Peters looked set to pounce.

Craig Dawson arrived unmarked to meet Aaron Cresswell’s flighted free-kick, but could only look on as the attempt landed on the roof of the rigging. But having tested the water, West Ham made no mistake with their next foray forward. Saints stopper, Alex McCarthy pushed Jarrod Bowen’s strike into the path of Pablo Fornals – the Spaniard making no mistake from eight yards, much to the delight of the East London faithful.

The crowd had barely retaken their seats when Fornals struck again. This time supplying a crisp, right-footed strike beyond McCarthy after Vladimir Coufal had fashioned an opening from the right.

Two goals – Pablo Fornals (Rob Newell CameraSport)

Fabianski pushed over Minamino’s angled attempt, then brilliantly saved Jan Bednarek’s goal-bound header as the Saints searched for a way back after the restart. Danny Ings also went close, flicking over at the near post, although in truth, the home side remained comfortably in charge of proceedings during a fairly uneventful second period.

Both Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek were a fraction away from a telling touch to another pinpoint Cresswell free-kick. Meanwhile, Fabianski clung on to Nathan Tella’s strike and Nathan Redmond hit the side-netting as Southampton, though looking well beaten, stubbornly refused to throw in the towel.

Tella thought he’d reduced the arrears, only to be left frustrated by an assistants’ flag. Substitute Said Benrahma almost punished the visitors’ further, blasting the wrong side of an upright after Lingard had played him in.

But West Ham wasn’t quite finished. Declan Rice supplied the finishing qualities of a seasoned striker after bursting in from the left. Hammers home and hosed – Fans hopeful that the continued lifting of restrictions will allow them to watch their favourites against European opposition come the new campaign.

West Ham United: Łukasz Fabiański, Vladimir Coufal, Angelo Ogbonna, Craig Dawson, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice (Capt) (Issa Diop 90+1’), Tomas Souček, Jarod Bowen (Mark Noble 84’), Jesse Lingard, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio (Said Benrahma 68’) Subs not used: Darren Randolph (GK), Ryan Fredericks, Ben Johnson, Fabian Balbuena, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ademipo Odubeko

Booked: None
Goals: Pablo Fornals 30’, 33’, Declan Rice 86’

Southampton: Alex McCarthy, Kyle Walker-Peters (Oriol Romeu 60’), Jannik Vestergaard, Jan Bednarek, Mohammed Salisu, Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse (Capt), Stuart Armstrong, Ibrahima Diallo, Takumi Minamino (Nathan Tella 62’), Danny Ings (Michael Obafemi 84’) Subs not used: Fraser Forster (GK), Jack Stephens, Daniel N’Lundulu, Will Ferry, Moussa Djenepo, Theo Walcott

Booked: Jan Bednarek (foul), Ibrahima Diallo (foul), Mohammed Salisu (foul)
Goals: None

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis and James Mainwaring
Fourth Official: Matt Donohue
VAR: Craig Pawson
Assistant VAR: Peter Kirkup

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]