Jarrod Bowen scored his first Premier League goal as West Ham moved two points clear of the relegation zone with a comfortable 3-1 win over a lacklustre Southampton side at the London Stadium, their first victory in nine games.
Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl made two changes to the side that outclassed Aston Villa last time out as Southampton looked to secure only their second ever win at the London Stadium. Michael Obafemi replaced top scorer Danny Ings who continues to nurse a slight muscle injury, while Sofiane Boufal was handed his first Premier League start since December after Moussa Djenepo was left out of the matchday squad for personal reasons.
Ahead of the match, approximately 5,000 West Ham fans staged a protest march outside the London Stadium as part of ongoing action against under-fire co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
Despite the off-pitch turmoil, the Hammers started on the front foot and came close to opening the scoring on 13 minutes. The visitors were almost caught out from their own corner kick as Michail Antonio led a quick counter before James Ward-Prowse made a crucial last-ditch block to deny Bowen’s goal-bound shot.
Bowen however wouldn’t wait long to avenge his earlier miss as Pablo Fornals slid a perfect pass in between Jack Stephens and Jan Bednarek to send the former Hull City forward free. From there, the home debutant made no mistake in clipping the ball over the advancing Alex McCarthy into the far corner.
West Ham kept their intensity up and should have doubled their lead five minutes later through Sebastian Haller. Antonio did well to dink a clever ball into the middle from the left-hand side, but Haller was unable to guide his header past McCarthy.
Eventually, Southampton would impose themselves on the game as they began to enjoy sustained periods of possession. This would lead to the equalizing goal in the 31st minute as Obafemi rounded off an excellent team goal. The away side countered through the run of Stuart Armstrong before the Scotsman gave the ball to Ward-Prowse on the overlap. The midfielder then cut the ball back to Obafemi inside the area with the youngster showing great composure to loop the ball intof the roof of the net for his second league goal of the season.
The goal threatened to knock the confidence out of a fragile West Ham team but 5 minutes before the half-time interval, the home side deservedly regained the lead. Once again, Antonio was at the heart of the attacking move as he lifted a ball towards the far post, prompting McCarthy to come off his line. The cross looked easy enough for the goalkeeper to collect but Haller reacted quickly to win the aerial battle and slide home the loose ball from the tightest of angles.
The Saints began the second half with greater intensity and purpose as straight after the restart, Ryan Bertrand exposed the Hammers backline with two crosses flashing across the six-yard line untouched. During this period of pressure, the away side came closest to finding an equalizer when Shane Long nearly got on the end of Sofiane Boufal’s cross at the far post.
Hasenhuttl brought on Danny Ings in the 54th minute as his team adjusted to a 3-5-2 but soon after, West Ham scored the all-important third goal to put the game out of Southampton’s reach. The Saints backline crumbled as Haller flicked the ball to Fornals, who saw the run of Antonio in behind the defence. An unopposed Antonio made no mistake in slotting the ball past McCarthy, leaving the away side with an insurmountable task.
The closing stages were comfortable for West Ham, with Ings’s deflected shot in the 86th minute as close as Southampton came to setting up a dramatic finale. At the final whistle, West Ham fans celebrated their side’s fourth home win of the season while for Southampton, three defeats in the last four matches represents a slump in form.
Ralph Hasenhuttl spoke to Sky Sports after the game:
It was clear what happened. They had a better defence and a better way to defend. The goals we conceded, we trained all week to defend their threat. That’s why they deserved to win today. If anyone thinks we’re safe then that’s a problem. We have to fight for every point.
Southampton remain 7 points off the bottom three and hope to bounce back next Saturday when they face Newcastle at St Mary’s.