West Ham United 3
West Ham climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with a comfortable 3-1 win over Southampton at the London Stadium this afternoon.
Goals from Jarrod Bowen - on his full Hammers’ debut, Sebastien Haller and Michail Antonio moved the Londoners up to 16th in the table – albeit helped by the fact that Aston Villa do not have a league game this weekend due to their participation in tomorrow’s league cup final.
West Ham knew the importance of this game, which came in between defeats at Manchester City and Liverpool – where the Hammers were unlucky not to come away with a point – and games against Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs and Chelsea.
And the nervy atmosphere at the London Stadium reflected its significance. There’s still time for many ups and downs before May, but this did have something of a feeling of a must-win game about it – and win it the Hammers emphatically did.
The Irons were the better side in the first half and should have been ahead on 13 minutes when Antonio broke following a Southampton corner. He had more than one option but his choice of ball to full debutant Jarrod Bowen was slightly behind the striker, and his shot was blocked.
But just two minutes later the Hammers were deservedly ahead. Saints gave the ball away down their right, and when Pablo Fornals played in Bowen down the left channel, the 23-year-old calmly lifted the ball over goalkeeper Alex McCarthy for his 18th goal of the season – 17 coming for Hull City prior to his £20m signing for the Londoners in January.
And four minutes later West Ham should have been 2-0 up. A great cross from the left by Antonio was met by Haller, but the Frenchman headed straight at McCarthy from eight yards when he should have scored.
And West Ham were left to rue their missed chances on 31 minutes when Southampton levelled through Michael Obafemi, against the run of play.
James Ward-Prowse overlapped past Aaron Cresswell down the Saints’ right and collected Stuart Armstrong’s ball perfectly before crossing for Obafemi, whose looping effort evaded Lukasz Fabianski and dropped into the net.
Issa Diop then headed wide a great chance from a corner from the right before the Hammers were back in front through Haller.
The Frenchman jumped with McCarthy for a cross the from the left, beat the goalkeeper to the header, but the ball appeared to be dropping out of play, until the Haller stretched his right leg and somehow cut the ball in from the narrowest of angles, with the goalkeeper well out of position. There was the briefest of VAR checks to see if Haller had impeded McCarthy when jumping, but the goal was rightly allowed to stand.
And nine minutes after the restart the Hammers were 3-1 ahead thanks to Antonio. Haller won the initial ball and knocked down for Fornals, who played Antonio in behind the Southampton defence to fire past McCarthy.
The Hammers should have been out of sight just after the hour, when a wonderful back flick by Haller played in Antonio, whose side-footed effort was well saved by the foot of McCarthy.
Then Bowen’s twisting run ended in a shot over the bar.
Southampton pushed forward at the end after the introduction of Danny Ings, who started on the bench due to a knock he had picked up midweek.
But they couldn’t muster anything of real note, and the Hammers were home and dry - and have now given themselves a great chance of avoiding the drop.
West Ham: Fabianski, Cresswell, Noble, Bowen (Snodgrass, 78), Fornals (Anderson, 90), Ogbonna, Haller, Diop, Antonio, Rice, Ngakia
Referee: Anthony Taylor