Saints undone by first-half blitz

By SFC Media time Sat 31 Mar West Ham v Saints
Photo by James Bridle | Manolo Gabbiadini
Sat 31 Mar 3PM
Premier League
West Ham United
Mário [13'] Arnautovic [17' 45+4']
yellow card
Lemina (54') Stephens (59') Tadic (80')
Referee: Jonathan Moss | Venue: London Stadium | Attendance: 56,882

Southampton were on the receiving end of a first-half blitz as West Ham scored three times before the interval to boost their survival chances at the London Stadium.

João Mário and Marko Arnautovic were on target in quick succession to put the hosts in command inside 17 minutes, before the Austrian struck again deep into stoppage time.

Saints responded with a more positive second period, but struggled to convert sustained possession into chances, as two blocked shots from Charlie Austin posed the biggest threat to Joe Hart’s clean sheet.

Mark Hughes made two changes to his first Saints line-up, who ran out 2-0 winners at Wigan to book their place in the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals a fortnight ago.

Austin significantly returned from hamstring trouble to make his first appearance of 2018, partnering Manolo Gabbiadini up front, while Nathan Redmond replaced Sofiane Boufal on the left side of a four-man midfield.

The Hammers were in action for the first time in three weeks and the first time since a 3-0 drubbing by Burnley left home fans invading the London Stadium pitch in protest.

There was certainly a point to prove from those in claret and blue, who duly flew out of the blocks in a bid to win over their disillusioned supporters.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Charlie Austin of Southampton shoots at goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Southampton at the London Stadium on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Charlie Austin goes for goal on his first Saints appearance since December 23rd

Even after losing Michail Antonio to injury inside the first ten minutes, West Ham continued on the front foot and found the early goal a boisterous home crowd craved.

Cheikhou Kouyaté was the architect, embarking on a powerful run down the right and picking out João Mário with a square pass along the 18-yard line.

Taking one touch to steady himself, the Portuguese midfielder lashed a shot high into the roof of the net with his second.

The Londoners were playing with a confidence that belied their recent struggles. They should have doubled their lead when Mark Noble found Arnautovic, who skewed the chance wide with only Alex McCarthy to beat.

It would not take long for the second goal to arrive. This time João Mário was the creator, crossing from the right for Arnautovic, whose header was brilliantly saved by McCarthy at point-blank range but fell kindly for the ex-Stoke man to tap in the rebound.

Saints did begin to grow into the game as the first half wore on, but were unable to test Hart in the West Ham goal as periods of possession came to nothing.

The hosts, meanwhile, were enjoying themselves, but if Saints could score the next goal, you still sensed some anxiety could creep into their play and transform the whole mood.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Marko Arnautovic scores for West Ham during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Southampton at the London Stadium on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Alex McCarthy's fine save proves academic as Marko Arnautovic follows up to score

Instead Arnautovic pounced to score the killer third in stoppage time and top off a first half to forget for the visitors.

Again it came via a ball into the box from wide, as this time Arthur Masuaku crossed deep to the far post where Arnautovic was waiting with a clinical sidefoot volley that left McCarthy no chance.

Hughes felt he had to make a change at the interval, which was to introduce extra energy in the form of Shane Long in place of Gabbiadini.

Within minutes of the restart there was more urgency about Saints. Austin had not had a sight of goal all day, but that changed when he combined with Tadić only to be denied by a last-ditch block from the sliding Angelo Ogbonna.

When Long picked him out on the edge of the box, Austin missed his kick but reacted quickly to hit another shot against Ogbonna, as his route to goal remained obstructed.

At the other end, Arnautovic’s casually placed shot nearly crept inside the far post from distance, before Hughes made his second change midway through the second period as Redmond made way for Boufal.

Tadić dragged a shot wide from distance as Saints continued to plug away, before he twisted and turned his way into a crossing position to no avail.

The arrival of Guido Carrillo off the bench in the closing stages was the final throw of the dice, while West Ham's Aaron Cresswell auditioned for the Premier League Goal of the Season award with a flying volley that grazed the crossbar.

Hughes's men return to the capital when they face Arsenal in eight days' time, knowing a big improvement is required to climb out of the bottom three.

West Ham United

Head to Head Stats

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West Ham United

Joe Hart (GK)
Declan Rice
Angelo Ogbonna
Aaron Cresswell
Arthur Masuaku
Mark Noble (C)
Pablo Zabaleta
Cheikhou Kouyaté
replace Josh Cullen (89′)
João Mário goal
Marko Arnautovic goal goal
replace Jordan Hugill (80′)
Michail Antonio
replace Edimilson Fernandes (9′)
Edimilson Fernandes
Jordan Hugill
Josh Cullen
Josh Pask
Grady Diangana
Patrice Evra


Alex McCarthy (GK)
Ryan Bertrand (C)
Wesley Hoedt
Cédric Soares
Jack Stephens yellow card
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
Mario Lemina yellow card
Dusan Tadic yellow card
Nathan Redmond
replace Sofiane Boufal (67′)
Manolo Gabbiadini
replace Shane Long (45′)
Charlie Austin
replace Guido Carrillo (83′)
Sofiane Boufal
Shane Long
Fraser Forster
Oriol Romeu
Maya Yoshida
Guido Carrillo
James Ward-Prowse
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