Southampton 3-1 West Ham United
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham United's journey in the 2021/22 FA Cup came to an end at the Fifth Round this evening, losing 3-1 away at Southampton.In a game that was finely balanced throughout, West Ham can feel aggrieved that not only were they the better side, but an incompetent refereeing performance stacked the odds against them.
A second-half penalty saw Andre Marriner sent to the VAR screen, where not only did he and VAR conclude a challenge in the box made by Dawson was a foul, but one worthy of overturning the original decision not to give it. Replays showed a clear pull from the striker Broja to get ahead of Dawson - two hands on the shirt too - but it was not looked at. The challenge itself did not bring the striker down, Broja initiating the contact after leaving the ball behind him.
If that wasn't galling enough, the stoppage-time third goal came after a clear handball was ignored at the other end.
All in all, it left Hammers fuming at once again being on the receiving end of sub-optimal refereeing, this time sending them out of the competition.
David Moyes showed his respect for the competition as he sent out nine of the team that had beaten Wolves at the weekend, retaining the 3-4-3 system that had worked so well in their victory. Southampton, on the other hand, made nine changes from their last outing.
The familiarity helped West Ham have the better of the opening period, Lanzini and Fornals notably combining often to dazzle with fast and precise passing. Where Lanzini is often linking things together, Fornals has that added edge to try, and often succeed at more difficult and direct balls. One such curler seemed to put Bowen in behind inside two minutes, only for Stephens to recover just to poke the ball away as Bowen was set to strike in the box.
Fornals and Lanzini again combined minutes later, leading to a half-chance for Soucek that the midfielder put just wide.
West Ham were certainly the better of the two teams, so it was a case of taking their chances whilst the dominance was theirs. As has been the case against Southampton three times now this season, the side struggled to do so.
Arguably the best chance came to Bowen, who again seemed to find his place in this system. Antonio, who looked energetic and confident, made great progress down the left and his cross from the byline found Bowen in the centre of the goal, only six yards out. But the forward couldn't get over the header, placing it high and wide when he really should have scored.
With moments fizzling out and openings wasted, Southampton were given the chance to find their way in the match. An opening for Armstrong, created by Smallbone out of nothing, was a warning shot that the home side carried threat.
A big chance at the other end saw a Soucek ball smashed across the face of goal after good play from Antonio, Lanzini and Bowen. Unfortunately for West Ham, it struck the defender in front of goal but bounced away rather than into the net.
Memories of the Boxing Day game against Southampton would have kept West Ham fans nervous. It was a game in which Southampton seemed to score whenever the Irons thought they had control of the game, and that rather infuriating knack stayed with the Saints.
A lovely passing move, keeping the ball away from their visitors, allowed them to force West Ham into their own box as they stood firm to stop the Southampton attack getting any space inside. The problem was that they left too much space on the edge, and as Perraud got the ball ten yards from the corner of the Hammers box on the left, he had far too much time to line one up and smash a beautiful drive across goal and towards Areola's top corner. The goalkeeper looked a little flat-footed and was beaten to see Southampton take the lead. Questions will be asked about his spring to get to the ball, but the deviation in the air gave it a wobble in the flight that undoubtedly made it much harder to stop.
They could have had a second not long after, but for the heroics of Declan Rice. Sloppy play from Dawson saw the defender lose the ball 20 yards inside his own half, and Armstrong drove into the box before laying it off to his right for the overlap. Had Rice not sprinted back and read the play, it would have been a massive chance. Instead it was cleared by the West Ham captain. Not long after, the England midfielder drove from his own half to the Southampton box, but Antonio's eventual shot was easily blocked.
Having had the better of the game, West Ham went in at the break a goal down. Hasenh? 1/4 ttl reacted by making two changes, bringing on Stuart Armstrong and Armando Broja, whilst Moyes kept his side as it was.
He was soon forced into a change, the laughable Andre Marriner waving play on as a loose elbow smashed into Soucek's face and floored the midfielder. Diallo had not meant to catch his man in the challenge, but his arm did swing and smash into the brow of his opponent. He was lucky not to be punished further, whilst it is a sign of the officiating in this country that the referee later did stop play when a ball hit Broja in the face.
Soucek, covered in blood, was forced off and replaced by Benrahma. Little can be said about the Algerian's performance without swearing, so he will be left for the ratings.
The threat lessened in the second half as Southampton protected their lead, yet even without the big Czech midfielder, West Ham threatened on corners.
The warning shot was fired when a Bowen corner curled in on goal and Zouma flicked a free header over the bar from two yards out. Two minutes later, the same corner routine forced Cabellero to challenge the defender for the ball, but all he could do was punch it at Zouma. It deflected down to Diop, who flicked it smartly back into the middle for Antonio to poke into an empty net. The striker had gone nine games without a goal prior to this, so will be as relieved as anyone to take this easiest of chances.
In a tight game, Moyes's side were the ones pushing for the win, but that habit of failing to cover at the back when on the front foot cost them again. With what looked like good control of the game, the defence was exposed as a long ball went up to Broja. He got ahead of Dawson by dragging him back and then burst after the ball and into the penalty area. Dawson was left with little choice but to make a risky challenge, and to his credit he did all that could be asked of him. He managed to slide to the side of Broja, get in line of the shot the forward was going to take and only made contact when Broja had lost the ball and bundled into Dawson.
The referee waved it away, but the deliberations had begun. VAR sent him to his screen, and after watching four or five replays of the incident, Marriner buckled.
Ward-Prowse hammered the penalty through the middle and into the back of the net. With just over 20 minutes to play, West Ham were again behind and chasing the game.
Vlasic was thrown on for Fornals, but it made little difference. Southampton began to swarm the middle of the park, knowing well that Lanzini and Rice controlled the key to West Ham starting any moves. Under constant pressure, and with little space, the Hammers stalled.
There was a late chance for Dawson from another good Bowen corner, saved very well to his left by the goalkeeper, but West Ham were out of ideas.
Still, there was a moment for Marriner to grab more spotlight. A blatant handball was turned down by West Ham in attack. Southampton got a throw from there, and the long hurl down the line could only be headed down into space by Dawson.
Broja reacted first, driving in from the left and at the area, beating Dawson and then Zouma before finding the far corner, low to Areola's left and ending the contest.
3-1 the final score, but West Ham will know they deserved more. They played well without finding enough final moments, but late substitutions again showed the lack of depth in this side. Vlasic being used down the left continues to look poor decision making, whilst Soucek being forced off was damaging enough before his replacement failed at being useful.
So the first challenge of a tough March drew defeat, exit from the FA Cup and plenty of frustration. It's only Liverpool in the league and Sevilla in the Europa Cup to come.
David Moyes: 6/10
He had little on his bench to use, but managed to make two bad choices anyway. The players were pretty much the two that had to come on, but Benrahma was awful centrally and Vlasic anonymous out wide. The system seemed to work for most of the players again, and the side looked the better of the two for most of the game.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
Questions on the first and third goal, harsh as that might be. The one good save he made, a flying dive from a long-range effort, was not convincing either.
He is not well supported down the right, that has to be said, but it has got to a point where a ball out to Johnson, whether he is in space or not, feels like a diversion before possession or a threatening position is lost.
Faded as the game went on, but to take off the only player who really found dangerous forward passes was a risk. In the first half, West Ham looked good because Fornals was finding great passes. It's as simple as that.
The team conceded three, but actually defended well. Zouma was excellent again, some big tackles to recover the odd worrying situation.
Even if it was a foul, it was not clear and obvious. The inability to use VAR to help the game is now beyond a VAR issue, it is entirely the appalling use of a system to help referees. Dawson will feel not only was he fouled, but he actually did really well to get back and stop the shot. The header for the last goal was a touch weak, but not awful and he won't take the blame.
Looked comfortable in that third centre back slot on the left. Made some big challenges, got an assist, was not threatened.
The one time the defence was exposed in the first half, Rice cleaned it up and made what was brilliant defending look absolutely easy. Made runs, controlled the midfield, protected his defence and gave the attack a platform to play. He did his job, and he can even be forgiven the few failed diagonals as his teammates had stopped giving him options.
The system does get more out of him going forward, and it does appear to make the team more threatening than when Rice is the more prominent attacker, but he wasn't playing notably well before being forced off.
Lovely to see how Fornals and Lanzini play on the same wavelength, an absolute joy in passing football. He knits the team together, but as the Southampton players crowded the middle and Lanzini was forced into the central pair, it became hard for him to help the side progress.
His corners push him up to a 6, otherwise Bowen has yet to find a good fit in this new system. He is one who drifts out of games anyway, even on form he plays in moments, but he seemed so desperate to be central that Johnson had to attack alone on the right. Harsh criticism of Johnson above is as much the player's fault as it is Bowen for not helping him.
Nine games without scoring is going to weigh heavily on any striker. With an assist last week, and a goal tonight, Antonio is getting the rewards for the hard work he has been doing for this team. He was no different tonight, still energetic, still flying down the channels and making opportunities and space for others. Deserved his goal and deserved the support the away fans gave him.
(Replaced Soucek, 52) Abysmal. Made the team much worse, a hindrance more than anything else.
(Replaced Fornals, 75) Wasn't good, but not in the same sloppy way Benrahma was. Didn't get into the game out on the left, and I am not sure what Benrahma is doing in the middle that means he gets that role and Vlasic doesn't. He is not being set up to achieve.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Pablo Fornals, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 59 .
Booked: Craig Dawson 0 .
Sent off: None.
Southampton: Caballero, Walker-Peters (Livramento 58), Valery, Stephens, Perraud, Diallo (Romeu 90), Smallbone (Redmond 81), Ward-Prowse, Djenepo (S.Armstrong 46), A.Armstrong, Long (Broja 46).
Subs not used: Lewis, Bednarek, Walcott, Adams.
Goals: Perraud (31), Ward-Prowse (69 pen), Broja (90+4).
Booked: Perraud (-), Diallo (87).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the Match: Issa Diop.