West Ham United secured their highest league finish since 1999 with a comfortable 3-0 win at the London Stadium against Southampton.
Ralph Hasenhuttl, knowing he needed to remain competitive with West Ham’s European hopes on the line, fielded a strong side but still made five changes to the side who lost at the hands of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United. Danny Ings, Nathan Redmond, Jan Bednarek, Ibrahim Diallo and Takumi Minamino all returned to the starting eleven, but it was a token to the good service of James Ward-Prowse: he has started every league game for Southampton in the last two seasons.
Early pressure from Southampton did not pay off; Diallo scuffed his chance from 25 yards out on 3 minutes which led to an easy save from Lukasz Fabianski in the West Ham goal. Minutes later, Stuart Armstrong found Liverpool loanee Minamino with a perfectly timed through ball on the counter attack. Rather than power, he went for a chip which fell wide of the post.
A goal line clearance on 20 minutes kept Southampton with a big chance in the game as Angelo Ogbonna met a well drilled corner, only to be cleared away by Mohamed Salisu from a yard or so out.
For Southampton, it was a case of ‘the same old story’. Despite their dominance in the first half an hour, it was West Ham who broke the deadlock. Jarrod Bowen’s darting run gave him a few yards of space – he pulled back and fired a shot towards goal which Alex McCarthy did not properly deal with. The follow-up from Pablo Fornals was easy enough to fire home, much to the delight of the 10,000 fans in the London Stadium.
Just three minutes later, Fornals managed to double his tally and his side’s lead. A low cross in from Vladimir Coufal found the run of the Spaniard who was able to meet it with a first time finish.
If the old cliché is that it was ‘a game of two halves’, then this was a half of two halves. The Saints were dominating for half of it, and the second half saw the much more clinical West Ham fire their way into a comfortable position at half time, knowing that a point was always going to be enough to secure European football.
The second half saw West Ham and Southampton cancel each other out. Whether it was Minamino, Bednarek or Ings, there was no beating Fabianski in the Hammers’ goal. Tomas Soucek, for the hosts, came close but could not wrap the game up with a third for the hosts.
The game did eventually get another goal through England’s hopeful Declan Rice. Awful defending from Jan Vestergaard – he did not continue to play as he thought Rice was offside by the looks of things – allowed the Englishman to just saunter through and power a finish home for the hosts.
In the end, it proved to be a comfortable victory for West Ham, securing their highest Premier League finish since 1999 and European football in the process.
For Southampton, an interesting summer ahead. Stick or twist with Hasenhuttl? Is it the ownership to blame, or have the players been slacking off since their 1-0 win against Liverpool in January – for much of the year, their only win of 2021?
With no fixtures upcoming, it is now time off between this fixture and the EUROs.
FT: West Ham 3-0 SOUTHAMPTON (Fornals 30′, 33′, Rice 87′).
West Ham: Fabianski, Coufal, Ogbonna, Dawson, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice (Diop 90’+2′), Bowen (Noble 84′), Lingard, Fornals, Antonio (Benrahma 69′). Unused Subs: Balbuena, Yarmolenko, Fredricks, Johnson, Randolph, Odubeko.
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters (Romeu 60′), Bednarek (booked), Vestergaard, Salisu (booked), Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Diallo (booked), Redmond, Ings (Obafemi 84′), Minamino (Tella 62′). Unused Subs: Stephens, Djenepo, Walcott, N’Lundulu, Forster, Ferry.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Pablo Fornals (West Ham)
Referee: Martin Atkinson