West Ham United 3 Southampton 1
Saturday, 29th February 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham United hauled themselves out of the bottom three with a comfortable win at home to Southampton, leaving the London Stadium with a 3-1 win and three valuable points.Having found some hope even in defeat on Monday, momentum from that performance flowed into this crucial fixture, one pinpointed for weeks as absolutely must-win.
It came after a fantastic display from West Ham fans, with thousands marching through Stratford earlier in the day and later proving their support was nothing but a positive for the team.
David Moyes made changes to give his side further attacking edge, with a full debut for Jarrod Bowen and returns to the starting eleven for Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller.
They started positively too, the duo of Antonio and Haller bullying the Southampton defenders and being ably supported by Fornals and Bowen from the left and right respectively.
It was the latter pairing who combined to get West Ham off to a fantastic start. 15 minutes of shadow boxing had Southampton holding the ball without any edge and West Ham attacking more directly and faster.
Southampton once again failed to play out from the back, eventually clearing poorly to the benefit of the Hammers. As Fornals received a pass on the edge of the box, Bowen moved in from the right and made a run across the box.
The Spaniard found him with a perfect pass, and Bowen showed the quality in the penalty area that has made him a potent goalscorer. From a tight angle, the winger dinked his finish across the goal and beating the goalkeeper to put his new side a goal ahead.
The side were confident and played so, but it may have been this that cost them the equaliser 15 minutes later, especially after Haller missed an easy chance when heading right at McCarthy.
A West Ham attack broke down and the Saints for once struck quickly. Three players broke down the West Ham left, Cresswell left to defend a trio of attackers. Armstrong played it down the line to Ward-Prowse, whose ball across the box was put away by Obafemi.
The worry swelled around the ground, but the physical duo of Antonio and Haller was still causing discomfort in the Southampton defence; it would throughout the game.
But with Ings out of the Southampton side, the visitors were mostly meek in attack, whilst Ogbonna and Diop?EUR(TM)s return to form continued. It would have been even better had Diop not somehow failed to score from a Cresswell corner.
It was soon forgotten, his mistake rarely as notable as the weakness from McCarthy in the Southampton goal.
With five minutes remaining before half time, an aimless Antonio cross looked to be falling right into the goalkeeper?EUR(TM)s hands. Up he jumped, challenged by Haller, and rather than the easy catch, the ball dropped down and towards the touchline.
Except Haller slid for it. From a tight angle, he hooked his foot around the ball, saving it from heading out and instead guiding it into the net for his seventh of the season to restore West Ham?EUR(TM)s lead. It was the kind of giveaway this side needed, the beneficiary of a goalkeeping error after Monday?EUR(TM)s misfortune.
It was a half time lead they deserved, a performance clear from the first whistle that was full of more desire and determination than Southampton could match.
It carried into the second half. Rice and Noble had more bite than their opponents; Fornals and Bowen the energy and attitude to support defence as equally as the attack; Jeremy Ngakia again composed and impressive as he outperformed Boufal so comfortably that the winger was withdrawn having achieved nothing.
The West Ham approach was just too much for Southampton to handle.
There was little threat from the visitors in the second half, West Ham disciplined and defiant, able to withstand Southampton?EUR(TM)s possession football and then spring out on the attack.
It was how the game was decided.
A long clearance onto Haller?EUR(TM)s head was flicked on once again by the impressive Frenchman, Fornals rewarded for his gamble and getting onto it.
Composed as he often is, the Spaniard guided a ball on the half volley perfectly over the last Southampton defender and into the path of Antonio.
He took it down, into the area and had all the composure needed to hammer it into the Southampton net and five West Ham a two goal lead.
There was 35 minutes left to play, but the contest faltered and spluttered, never coming back to life.
Haller did present Antonio with a chance for one more after a quite delightful rabona played his partner through, but the miss wasn?EUR(TM)t punished.
It ended with a comfortable three points and a huge release of tension. The hope had arrived on Monday, but points were required. This time, West Ham delivered.
Climbing out of the relegation places on goal difference, ending the day in 16th even with Watford?EUR(TM)s unexpected win against Liverpool, gives the team the impetus to push for survival. The stadium believed, the support for the team always there regardless of strong displeasure of the regime on show in East London today.
It?EUR(TM)ll take more days like this to stave off relegation, but the first must-win was negotiated successfully.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Relatively untroubled, he?EUR(TM)ll be annoyed to have been beaten but did deal with crosses well.
Ngakia controlled his flank excellently. He was turned once in the first half and got back to beat his man one-on-one anyway. He looks confident and in control, both with the ball and when the pressure is on him in defence.
Exposed for the goal, but that was mismanagement of the side around him. Some excellent corners too.
The recovery of his form is a huge relief. He likes defending against runners, Long and Ings are the kind of strikers he excels against. It was comfortable.
Ogbonna is marshalling the defence. He wasn?EUR(TM)t exceptional, just comfortably good and in control of his game. Form like this keeps West Ham up.
A little more restrained today, holding a deeper position alongside Noble. Bossed the Southampton central players, although a concern that he and Noble let Southampton outnumber Cresswell so drastically for their goal.
Started poorly on the ball, with uncharacteristic sloppy passing, but grew into the game. He had a level of authority about him that the more flair players in Southampton couldn?EUR(TM)t match. Should not be taking freekicks though.
In and out of the team he might go, but again his contributions were notable. A goal on Monday, today it was two superb assists thanks to a subtlety and poise in passing that many others fail to match. Worked exceptionally hard.
The goal was wonderfully taken and the runs added another element to the West Ham attack. But it was just as promising to see him working hard up and down the flank, negating any fears that his inclusion would weaken the side defensively.
Part unpredictable wrecking ball, part ballerina, Antonio had fun with the Southampton defence. He was either bullying them or bamboozling them. Whilst Haller held the middle ground, Antonio combined with him excellently in almost a free role.
Much maligned as he is, the Frenchman did fantastically to score and was excellent as an outlet all game. His touch is exquisite, but he has the brute strength with it to bully bigger centre halves. Him and Antonio complement each other very well, Haller always looking to supply willing runners.
(Replaced Bowen) Came on, worked hard, made little fuss. One lovely slide tackle was appreciated in the stands.
(Replaced Wilshere) A stoppage-time cameo without a touch!
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Jeremy Ngakia, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio, Sebastien Haller.
Goals: Jarrod Bowen 15 Sebastien Haller 40 Michail Antonio 54 .
Booked: Aaron Cresswell 0 .
Sent off: None.
Southampton: McCarthy, Smallbone (Romeu 78), Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Boufal (Ings 53), Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Long, Obafemi.
Subs not used: Gunn, Walker-Peters, Valery, Vestergaard, Romeu, Adams.
Goals: Obafemi (31).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: Michail Antonio.