The London Stadium played host to an important game for both West Ham and Southampton on March 31st.
David Moyes’ side had recently been in turmoil, with fans visibly upset after their 3-0 defeat to Burnley in their last Premier League encounter. Pitch invasions and fan protests making the front page of the papers, for all the wrong reasons.Embed from Getty Images
An equally important game for the Saints, as this was Mark Hughes’ first game in charge in the Premier League of the side from the south coast, whose recent Premier League form has left the side in serious danger of facing the drop.
West Ham started the game quickly, which heavily contrasted to a sluggish looking Southampton side. Capitalisation of Southampton’s sloppiness was vital, and capitalise they did. The 13th minute saw Mario Lemina caught on the ball by Kouyate at the edge of the West Ham penalty area, ironic as Lemina has been the Saints’ best player so far this season. A powerful run from the Senegalese international followed by an accurate pull-back gave Joao Mario a chance to fire home his first goal for the club to complete an excellent counter-attack, and what a way to score it. A half-volley into the roof of the net to give McCarthy no chance.
West Ham had the chance to go two goals ahead with Mark Noble and Marco Arnautovic exchanging a smooth one-two on the edge of Southampton’s penalty area which gave Arnautovic a clear strike at McCarthy’s goal. However, the effort was placed wide. Arnautovic evidently had a massive point to prove to his former boss Mark Hughes, who sold him to the Hammers from Stoke in the summer, as just four minutes after the first goal came West Ham’s second through the man himself. A perfectly weighted cross from Mario on the right hand side of the box allowed Arnautovic a free header, excellently saved by Alex McCarthy, the follow up however, could not be dealt with as on his second attempt at the goal it rustled in the back of the net. The celebration was arguably directed at the current Saints manager with his arms across his chest, assuming symbolisation of his current club.Embed from Getty Images
Four minutes into injury time before the half time whistle, Arnautovic popped up again and put the game to bed in fantastic style. Masuaku initiated the move, running down the left flank at Cedric Soares who couldn’t deal with the pace and close control. A beautifully whipped ball in to the back post found Marco Arnautovic who volleyed the ball in to the bottom right hand corner with excellent technique.
Aaron Creswell almost added insult to injury to the Saints with a left footed volley from 20 yards, narrowly missing the top corner and skimming the crossbar. A firm three points for West Ham and a happy David Moyes left the London Stadium yesterday afternoon, sitting in an ever more comfortable position of 14th.Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, Mark Hughes has a lot of work to do. Zero attempts on goal in the entire 90 minutes gave Southampton fans nothing to be excited about. A must win game in hand for the Saints seems to be the only hope they’ve got to hold on to. 18th and struggling.
Time is running out for The Saints as the Championship beckons.
Written by Niall Henry.