Southampton 0-0 West Ham United
Tuesday, 29th December 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
A heavily rotated West Ham side came away from St. Mary's with a hard-fought point, a very level game ending 0-0.Having made five changes to the team that faced Brighton, David Moyes will have been delighted to see his side contain and often outplay high-flying Southampton, and may well argue his side should have won.
There was a debut in defence for Craig Dawson, first starts of the season for Lanzini and Yarmolenko, and returns too for Pablo Fornals and Ryan Fredericks.
It looked a risk as the Saints started fast, the ever-dangerous Danny Ings back in the starting line-up and looking dangerous. The striker put the ball away brilliantly early on, only for an offside call to rule out the goal.
Across the opening 45 it was mostly a game to forget, the only real moment of note when Dawson volleyed Che Adams?EUR(TM)s head inside the box, the forward getting up surprisingly quickly and, more outrageously, without even a check from a doctor or physio.
Southampton controlled the ball early on and the Hammers looked as if they were happy to weather the storm and cede possession to the home side. They slowly grew into it, Soucek in particular having a big influence through the middle, but the home side continued to dominate the ball.
Their problem remained throughout that they built attacks slowly, and this West Ham side is drilled and disciplined, ready to get back and defend. With the defence set, Southampton lacked the intricacy to really trouble.
A flurry of incidents as half-time approach did give the tired audience some hope of a game of football breaking out in the second 45. Most notably when Fredericks should have scored, found by a brilliant and intelligent Fornals header in the box. The right back headed meekly at goal, unable to conjure the power behind it to beat McCarthy even from close range.
The Hammers came out from break with an energy and vibrancy completing lacking from what had been before. A period of good control saw Moyes make a positive move from the bench, Benrahma replacing the tidy Lanzini in a role ahead of the midfield.
The Algerian has come into some criticism from fans lately, tagged as a Sullivan vanity purchase, but showcased an ability to make space and turn defenders in difficult and tight circumstances. It livened up the West Ham attack.
That being said, it was Walcott who next threatened the goal, a dipping and moving effort saved well by Fabianski. Getting to the ball was solid goalkeeping, but keeping it in his grasp as strikers searched for a rebound was excellent considering the movement of the ball.
It reminded West Ham of the threat on offer against a side playing well this season, but the Hammers controlled the majority of the second half and the substitutions added life into their display.
Fornals in particular grew into the second half, added movement and ingenuity to the attack and making some very important interventions defensively. One in particular showed not only the energy he brings, but the brain he has with it, launching into the air to make an interception, and making it up to his feet to then bring it down with his weaker foot and quickly pass it.
Soon Bowen replaced Yarmolenko and Michail Antonio cheered everyone with an extensive warm-up. Half openings were created, Soucek causing problems from crosses and close to troubling the goalkeeper, but the introduction of Antonio suddenly seemed to give the side the real edge over their hosts.
Whether it was reputation or the threat Antonio offered in behind, West Ham looked dangerous as soon as he came on.
It led to one chance, the one big chance of the game. As West Ham were able to break down the left, Bowen sprinting free, his pass into the middle was deflected up into the air. Said Benrahma was sandwiched between two Southampton defenders as it dropped, but he won the ball and was thwarted from six yards by a magnificent Alex McCarthy save, even if he really should have scored.
It was the last chance of the game, Southampton taking over the ball but creating little as the clock ticked away, but all for little as the full-time whistle went.
The draw was the fairest result, two well-matched side who arguably controlled a half each. But the chances were with West Ham, the one big chance of the game stopped magnificently, three points there to take if only Benrahma could have blasted it beyond McCarthy.
Instead it was a solid point for West Ham, a display full of positives too. The return of Antonio is undeniably huge, whilst the performances from the bench and of periphery figures like Dawson and Fredericks a sign that there is a useful squad depth to this side, whilst the manager corrected the error of his Brighton starting eleven too.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Rarely called upon, but was very good when needed.
Considering the right hand side of the team was two players who have featured little, the pair of Fredericks and Dawson were very good. He was excellent under pressure and looked not to have suffered from his time out of the team.
Exposed a few times by Walcott, it did feel like Fornals had to play his game to babysit Cresswell. His delivery was not as sharp as it has been, but he was never dramatically beaten at the back.
There will be very few debuts greeted with less excitement for West Ham, but Dawson belied expectations with strong defending in the air and on the deck. The deep line definitely suits what he is about, but to perform that well when his debut was in December is to his credit as a professional.
The man you would most want alongside you in a West Ham defence on your debut. As calm and collected as ever, he defended with his usual command and is having another excellent season.
Declan, as ever, never put a foot wrong and adding dangerous freekick crosses to his game is another string to the bow of arguably the most rounded midfielder in the league.
With concerns about the schedule on the energy of this team, Soucek made a mockery of that with an all-action performance. Strong in defence, yet arguably the most potent attacking threat.
A quiet first half, Fornals came alive as others tired and covered the whole left whilst drifting centrally. There were moments he was covering gaps left by Soucek, then sprinting across to the left to make sure Cresswell?EUR(TM)s hand was held.
Probably a little frustrated that he missed the time in the game where his side made more progress going forward. Doesn?EUR(TM)t cover his full back like Bowen does, would arguably have been a better choice up front than Haller.
Neat, tidy and clearly much more suited to this role than Noble. Didn?EUR(TM)t have the attacking dynamism of Benrahma but is much more suitable when becoming part of the defensive three in midfield.
As he has done lately, he put himself about, tried to pressure from the front and made defenders uncomfortable by trying to bully them. It just hasn?EUR(TM)t been working at all as an attacking threat, whilst his touch is getting rustier the more he plays.
(Replaced Lanzini, 59) He can turn under pressure and create space in the opposition half in a way no other player in this side can. His spark gave the impetus to this side to attack and whilst he should have scored, that overall impact on a team should not go unnoticed.
(Replaced Yarmolenko, 72) Worked hard and got in behind with direct running and the pace Yarmolenko doesn?EUR(TM)t have.
(Replaced Haller, 77) Just added the extra dimension to the attack by offering a pace threat in behind the defence. And made every West Ham fan happy by just making it onto the pitch.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play. Also unused: Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini, Sebastien Haller.
Booked: Andriy Yarmolenko 67 .
Sent off: None.
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Redmond, Walcott, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Djenepo (Armstrong 78), Ings, Adams (Long 58).
Subs not used: Forster, Valery, Smallbone, Diallo, Vokins, Salisu, Obafemi.
Booked: Bertrand (40), Djenepo (72), Walker-Peters (76).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Andrew Madley.
Man of the Match: Craig Dawson.