West Ham v Southampton: Match Report
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 16 December 2019 at 12:27pm
Written by: Graham Keeffe
Billed as a real six-pointer, West Ham travelled to fellow strugglers Southampton in the late Saturday game with just one point separating the sides before kick-off. A Felipe Anderson brace saw the Hammers run out 2-1 winners in this fixture last year but with the Brazilian ruled out this time around with a reported “stomach issue”, it fell to Antonio and Haller to act as the focal point of the attack. With Pellegrini under mounting pressure, he had no choice but to relent and revert to a 4-4-2, giving Haller some much needed support.
It was almost the perfect start for the Hammers, with Rice nodding home from a free kick from the wing, but he was well offside. West Ham continued to pile on the pressure in the opening stages, with Antonio repeatedly spinning way from his man to break away down the channels which allowed Haller to take up a more central role to receive incoming crosses. With just 7 minutes on the clock, the Hammers once again almost opened the scoring but Fornals’ shot from Antonio’s cross was well blocked by Cedric. The most controversial moment of the half came on 25 minutes, where the Hammers had not one, but two penalty appeals in the same passage of play dismissed by VAR. Both Antonio and Haller were bundled over quite clearly by Southampton defenders, with Jan Bednarek having his arm around the former’s neck. However, neither Martin Atkinson nor VAR official Jonathan Moss were convinced.
Southampton began to enjoy more possession as the game reached the half hour mark, but the final product to Ings was lacking. Finally, West Ham broke the deadlock. Stemming from some brilliant play from Antonio to keep the ball alive, he played it to Snodgrass who looped the ball to Fornals at the back post. The young Spaniard perfectly cushioned a header to the waiting Haller who fired in off the upright. That was the Frenchman’s first goal since October 5th.
West Ham have been serial offenders for dropping points from winning positions this season (12), so it was imperative they got off to a strong start in the second half. They nearly did just that when Fornals struck a vicious half volley towards goal almost immediately from the restart but it was well saved from McCarthy. A tactical switch up from Southampton saw them ramp up the pressure on Pellegrini’s men, with a barrage of balls being played down the wing. During this period of pressure Ryan Fredericks picked up a yellow card which will see him miss the game against Crystal Palace due to accumulation. Just after the hour mark the Saints began to rack up their shot count with high and wide long range efforts from Hojbjerg and Djenepo, the former being closer to the River Itchen than Martin’s goal.
On 70 minutes Southampton came very close to equalizing, as a thunderous Ings strike hit the crossbar. The saints were now enjoying over 60% of the ball. The home side’s pressure appeared to have finally paid off when Ings smashed the ball into the top right corner from the edge of the box, but the whistle had gone for a foul on substitute Andriy Yarmolenko. West Ham nearly had a second but for another fine save from McCarthy from a Haller header as the game neared the final ten minutes. The Frenchman was subsequently substituted for Carlos Sanchez in an effort to preserve all three points. As the game neared its conclusion, the Saints penned West Ham back into their defensive third as they continued their search for an equalizer. With Diop brought on for Noble, the Hammers were successfully able to preserve their lead and take all three points home from the South Coast.
An outstanding Antonio, resolute defence and much needed goal from Haller sees the Hammers distance themselves from the relegation zone. Now with a 12 day lay-off, the Hammers will be able to get in some invaluable recovery time before another crucial game against Crystal Palace, where it now appears Pellegrini will remain in the dugout. Final score: West Ham 1 – 0 Southampton.