Hammers outgun Southampton to take all three points


Sebastien Haller’s first-half strike proved decisive as a 1-0 victory over Southampton eased the pressure on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini.

The festive cheer did not spread to St Mary’s as the home faithful watched their side’s last home game before Christmas, an aggressive Hammers front-line overpowering the Saints defence throughout the contest.

Despite rumours of unrest in the dressing room, West Ham started the brighter and dominated the first-half. Ten minutes before the break, they got their just rewards when Sebastien Haller’s half-volley opened the scoring.

The Frenchmen’s goal continued a miserable record for their counterparts, who extended their run of games without a clean sheet to 12.

After the break the Irons continued to threaten, testing Alex McCarthy on numerous occasions. Danny Ings had the hosts best chance, with his effort cannoning back off the crossbar.

Southampton huffed and puffed but in the end, were thwarted by a much-improved West Ham defence.

It is now back-to-back defeats for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men, who remain in 18th place.

Meanwhile, the visitors move up to 15th following their third successive victory against their southern counterparts.

After a turbulent week in East London, Manuel Pellegrini must have been pleased with his side’s reponse as the Hammers thought they’d opened the scoring in the second minute.

An in-swinging free-kick was nodded in by Declan Rice for what would have been the perfect start. But the linesman was correct in deeming the England midfielder offside. The raising of the flag prompted the St Mary’s faithful into a sigh of relief, choir-like.

The early let-off came as no surprise to the home supporters, who were accustomed to seeing their side give chances away at will.

Since taking over in December 2018, only south coast neighbours Bournemouth have conceded more than Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men. Prior to the West Ham fixture, the Austrian’s 40 games in charge had seen his side ship in 71 goals.

But in an attempt to find some sort of defensive consistency, Hasenhuttl named an unchanged eleven for the third straight league game, despite a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle last week.

West Ham continued to push with Michail Antonio spearheading the Irons attack. Pablo Fornals came inches away while Antonio had claims for a penalty rejected by Martin Atkinson and VAR.

In the 37th minute, Sebastien Haller gave the visitors a lead with a fine first-time finish.

Pablo Fornals was left unattended at the back-post by Cedric, who allowed the Spaniard time and space to knock the ball down to Haller. The Frenchmen rounded the move off with aplomb to grab his fifth of the season.

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After the break, Hasenhuttl brought on Oriol Romeu to inject some steel in the heart of midfield. It was a justified move from the Austrian, who had witnessed his side bullied, outworked and simply outfought in the first-half.

Things almost got worse for the Saints just seconds after the restart. Alex McCarthy was instantly called into action after Pablo Fornals struck a dipping effort to the shot-stopper’s left.

But six minutes later, VAR cancelled out another West Ham goal.

After causing havoc all afternoon, Michail Antonio thought he got a well-deserved goal. The forward hustled and bustled his way through the Southampton defence, before sweetly striking past McCarthy.

Yet again, VAR came to Saints’ rescue as Antonio was judged to have handled in the build-up.

The interval did not seem to inspire Southampton, who continued to be sluggish with their pressing style of football. Arguably their best attribute, the press is normally seen as a passage to create their own chances. However, the first hour saw the side constantly one or two yards off the Hammers defenders.

Though Danny Ings did come millimetres away from levelling terms when an electric half-volley rattled the upright, denying him from scoring in six successive games. Perhaps the only bright spark for Southampton in an otherwise gloomy 70 minutes of play.

With the game becoming increasingly stretched, McCarthy produced another fine stop down low to his left, refusing Haller his second of the game.

While the Saints pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages, they failed to break down a resolute Irons defence. Pellegrini’s men stood strong to see out the victory and secure a vital three points.

Team Lineups:

Southampton (4-2-2-2): McCarthy; Cedric (Adams 87′), Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Hojbjerg (c), Ward-Prowse; Redmond (Romeu 45′), Djenepo; Ings, Long (Armstrong 84′)

Substitutes unused: Gunn, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Obafemi,

West Ham (4-4-2): Martin; Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Snodgrass (Yarmolenko 72′), Rice, Noble (c) (Diop 88′), Fornals; Antonio, Haller (Sanchez 78′)

Substitutes unused: Roberto, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Ajeti


About Author

Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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