Southampton 0-0 West Ham United
Saturday, 11th September 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham kept their first clean sheet of the season as they earned a scrappy 0-0 draw against Southampton at St. Mary's.It was a game lacking in quality throughout, with both teams short on chances. However, both will feel they should have won it, with two glorious headed chances not taken as the second half wore on.
West Ham remained unchanged, but found places on the bench for new boys Alex Kral, Nikola Vlasic and Kurt Zouma, the latter of whom will have surely noticed some slack defending by both starting centre backs late on.
In truth, there was little incident until a frantic finish. West Ham in particular were neat on the ball and showed passages of clever passing football, but always in areas Southampton would have been happy to see. When it came to threatening the penalty area, neither side showed anywhere near the ability to break through a Premier League defence.
An relatively open game for the first ten minutes soon drifted into a matchup between two solid sides who were guarded, wary of the counter and clearly aware of the need to have cover behind their attacking efforts. It worked for each of them defensively, but certainly not for the spectacle.
There were moments, openings but they were never dangers that were realised. It threatened to threaten, and that these chances that never materialise are worthy of mention arguably shows how little the match will stay in the memory.
For West Ham, it was Bowen breaking away down the right, but his low cross was intercepted by the centre back as Antonio peeled away to the far post.
At the other end, Moussa Djenepo could count himself unfortunate to see Craig Dawson?EUR(TM)s head deflect a curling effort wide, one that looked destined for the top corner.
There was very little else that happened, a good defensive header from Dawson aside. One might argue that the single minute of stoppage-time added was the highlight, and even that a minute too many.
There were no changes as the teams came back out, neither in personnel nor quality.
Benrahma never found his radar, an issue as Southampton did well to get deep in defence. The Algerian needed to be at his inventive best, but was sloppy in possession at crucial moments. In his defence, the fluency was never there at the top end of the pitch.
West Ham?EUR(TM)s big chance came from a set-piece. The majority throughout the 90 minutes were easily dealt with, but the one that wasn?EUR(TM)t somehow didn?EUR(TM)t end up in the back of the net.
The delivery was perfect, Bowen?EUR(TM)s cross bending in towards goal. Soucek attacked it, and the only surprise was that he completely missed the ball. From six yards out, not particularly well marked, it was an easy chance.
As it instead flew past him, both Dawson and Ogbonna may feel they could have bundled the ball in. Unfortunately for the Hammers, neither could.
Straight from there, Southampton peeled away on the break. As it was passed centrally to Redmond, he stood in the area with Cresswell facing him. The defenders deserves credit for delaying the winger, and Rice arrived back to nick the ball off his toe and clear.
In a game of inconsistent quality, Rice stood above the rest. He made numerous timely and crucial interventions, often understated, especially good at stopping attacks just as they looked to develop.
Both teams had headers inside the area fail to truly threaten, but the game didn?EUR(TM)t really spark into life until the tiredness became clearer.
Vlasic made his way on for his debut, replacing Benrahma, and he carried a threat early on. He was busy as he was introduced, one run down the left into the box carrying a real threat that was soon snuffed out. The Croatian seemed comfortable on either side, something that is missing in this West Ham group.
It was with just over 20 minutes to go that West Ham forced McCarthy into his only meaningful save.
The initial chances were wasted as Coufal drilled a cross into the box. Bowen missed his shot entirely, but the ball looped back to him in the air and his volley was struck sharply. It forced a good save from the goalkeeper but was always too close to him.
Soon Antonio was booked, throwing Stephens to the ground after the defender had dragged him away from the ball. It was innocuous, even funny at the time.
Southampton introduced their new striker, the tall figure of Broja replacing Adam Armstrong. If the West Ham defence thought they were about to face a simple aerial threat, they soon learned differently.
Moments after coming on, the Chelsea-loanee had gone round Ogbonna with ease, making the Italian left easily behind as the striker sprinted past him.
Not long after, it was Dawson?EUR(TM)s turn to come off second best. This time however, the defender deserved criticism. Whereas Ogbonna was just not as fast as his opponent, Dawson flew forward to steal the ball that the forward was about to receive, only to be rolled and beaten with minimal effort.
It left Ogbonna one-on-one to defend with the man who had already beaten him so easily for pace. The Italian did well to stand him up, but will have been extremely grateful to see his low shot from outside the area hit the base of the post.
The striker?EUR(TM)s introduction lifted Southampton, and it was the hosts who were most dangerous as the game approached its end. Diallo could have done more with a lovely cushioned volley into the box by Livramento, but the real drama was saved for the dying moments.
With all 90 minutes played, a dangerous Ward-Prowse corner was flicked on by that man Broja at the near post. Fabianski was beaten, but Rice stood firm at the far post to volley away the bouncing ball, half of which had crossed the line.
All that was left was for a lesson to be learned. Antonio, a man rarely booked, lunged to block a Southampton clearance. The tackle was late, but there was little contact and in no way dangerous.
But the referee took a different view, producing a yellow card and then a red for the Premier League?EUR(TM)s August Player of the Month. The folly of his first yellow punished fully, Antonio now to miss the Premier League visit of Manchester United to the London Stadium.
With that, it ended 0-0. West Ham remain unbeaten, and took their first clean sheet of the season, but cannot be happy with their performance. They controlled the ball well, but looked unable to break a disciplined defence. It?EUR(TM)s a problem they have had in the past, but it is one they must overcome.
Their performances have rightfully earned them plaudits, yet it also brings new challenges. Teams will play with that in mind, more aware of the threat and more respectful of it.
At least by the time these pages talk Premier League football again, the European adventure will have started.
How David Moyes manages not only that game, but the challenge of playing Thursdays and Sundays, the introduction of his new signings and the striker shortage that one single suspension immediately causes will be a story in itself.
It?EUR(TM)ll likely be more memorable than today.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
The only time he was really challenged, it was Rice who made the save.
He?EUR(TM)ll remember today more than others, such was the trouble Djenepo caused him. A couple dangerous balls into the box but quite subdued.
As the game stretched on, and Fornals could cover Cresswell less, his weaknesses became more apparent and suddenly Southampton came alive down their right. Still, he was the defender who slowed Redmond when the hosts might feel they should have scored.
The block on Djenepo?EUR(TM)s shot was vital, but his basics were poor again. Some errant passing, whilst the challenge to try rob Broja in the middle was abysmal defending. Not just because he was rolled so easily, but he also left Ogbonna to face a man who had only moments before beat him for pace.
Comfortable for the most part, until Broja came on. He could neither bully nor outpace the forward and will probably be delighted the young striker was only a late sub. Looked as slow as Dawson, only adding to the need for Zouma to settle in.
The only player in a West Ham shirt who can be happy with his performance. He stops so many attacks just as they look to be developing, let alone the ones he stops at vital moments. Notable again today that a busy and quick midfielder pushed onto him does limit his passing, both today and with Gallagher previously.
Defensively solid but that header was an easy chance, one he?EUR(TM)d have scored last season. Fine margins, but he needs to put those away. His usual self in midfield, calm and simple with the ball, combative and hardworking without.
Linked well with the midfield and protected Cresswell for about 75 minutes. But he couldn?EUR(TM)t get into the game in an attacking sense, and it?EUR(TM)s only his defensive contributions that earn him more than Benrahma.
Fine in the neat passages of play in ineffective areas, but not attuned to his teammates when it mattered. To be fair to him, it didn?EUR(TM)t really click for any of them, but the opportunities fell to the Algerian to create, and he couldn?EUR(TM)t.
Busier today and the only forward player who threatened the Southampton goal. His dribbling looked sharp and he looked more likely to produce than Fornals, Benrahma or Antonio. Harsh withdrawal, but not one that reflects on his performance.
The curse of the Player of the Month. He didn?EUR(TM)t really threaten goal; he only has himself to blame for the red card. Whether or not it?EUR(TM)s annoying to be grabbed aggressively by a defender, you cannot get up and throw them to the ground, even if you have a strongman reputation. The second yellow was unfortunate, but his own mistake opened him up to the referee?EUR(TM)s mercy. Now he misses a big game for very little reason.
6/10 An encouraging start. He looked busy, motivated and confident to dribble too. Stood up to it physically in his 30 minutes. Promising.
With about 10 minutes to play, credit to him for bringing on energy and working hard when defending. An interesting option, may prove more valuable than some critics expect in a tough season.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Booked: Michail Antonio 71 Declan Rice .
Sent Off: Michail Antonio 90 .
Southampton: McCarthy, Livramento, Stephens, Salisu, Perraud, Elyounoussi, Ward-Prowse, Romeu (Diallo 53), Djenepo, Redmond, A.Armstrong (Broja 74).
Subs not used: Forster, Walker-Peters, Lyanco, Bednarek, Valery, Tella, Broja, Adams.
Booked: Rowe (13), Redmond (71).
Sent off: None.
Referee: David Coote.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.