Saints beaten on final day


Southampton wrapped up the 2020/21 season in disappointing fashion, as they fell to a 3-0 defeat away to West Ham on the final day of the campaign.

Despite a bright start, Saints’ hopes of signing off with a positive result were all-but-ended when Pablo Fornals struck a quick-fire double in the first half to put the hosts well in command, and David Moyes’s team added a third late on through Declan Rice.

The result means Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side finish the campaign in 15th position, on 43 points.

Hasenhüttl made five changes for the final day, as Ché Adams missed out with an injury, while Jack Stephens, Moussa Djenepo, Nathan Tella and Theo Walcott dropped to the bench. Into the team came Jan Bednarek, Ibrahima Diallo, Takumi Minamino, Nathan Redmond and Danny Ings.

As he had in the midweek defeat to Leeds, the Southampton boss saw his side start brightly, generating a promising opportunity after only three minutes when they dispossessed Tomáš Souček in his own half, but as Minamino drove towards the box, with Saints outnumbering the West Ham defence, he over-ran the ball and the attack fizzled out.Diallo then fired over with a left-footed strike from distance before Minamino was handed an even better chance on 11 minutes to give the visitors the lead.It came via a rapid counter-attack that spanned the full length of the pitch, as a Michail Antonio cross was cleared, with James Ward-Prowse helping the ball onto Stuart Armstrong, who swapped passes with Ings and then played in Minamino down the inside left. He had only Łukasz Fabiański to beat and duly did just that, but his clipped left-footed effort spun half-a-yard wide of the far post.

Saints were fairly well on top, and the only moment of any concern for them in the opening 20 minutes came from a Jarrod Bowen corner, which Alex McCarthy could only get a hand to amid a clutch of players, with the ball then ricocheting goalwards, but Mohammed Salisu was well positioned to clear from about two yards out.With that scare behind them, Hasenhüttl’s side went back on the attack and midway through the half carved out another glorious opportunity to take the lead. This time it came from a chipped Diallo pass that found the run of Kyle Walker-Peters in behind, with the full-back cushioning it beautifully towards goal with his right foot, only for Fabiański to divert his subsequent left-footed shot, from little more than six yards, wide.Shortly after and Walker-Peters was again threatening the West Ham goal, getting onto the end of a Redmond cross at the back post and directing a header back towards the far corner, but it lacked the necessary power to beat Fabiański, who dived to his right to claim.It looked as if there was only one side likely to make the breakthrough, but Saints were soon left to rue their missed opportunities, as the hosts grabbed the lead against the run of play on the half-hour mark.

Bowen burst into the right half of the area and, although his low shot towards the far corner was saved by the diving McCarthy, the rebound fell into the path of Fornals, who was able to slam into the empty net.Barely three minutes later and Fornals had his, and West Ham’s, second of the afternoon. Saints failed to clear an initial cross from the left, allowing Vladimír Coufal to retrieve it on the far side and send in a low delivery that picked out his unmarked teammate, who swept home a right-footed shot from about 12 yards.It put the hosts, who began the day in sixth and had a European place on the line, well in command at the break.There were no changes for either side as they emerged for the final 45 minutes of the season, and, like they did in the first, Saints again began the half well.Their best moment of the opening minutes came when a Ward-Prowse corner picked out Bednarek at the near post, but his header towards the far corner was well saved by Fabiański, who flung himself to his left to deny the defender.

Some positive news did arrive for Saints on the hour mark, as Oriol Romeu made his first appearance since February, with the midfielder replacing Walker-Peters, as he completed his return from the ankle injury that had sidelined him. It meant Ward-Prowse switching to right-back for the remainder of the game and, shortly afterwards, Hasenhüttl made another change, as Tella was sent on for Minamino.Diallo and Salisu both then picked up bookings for fouls on Bowen and Coufal respectively. From the free-kick for the latter of those two, West Ham so nearly went 3-0 up, as Bowen’s in-swinging delivery from out on the right just eluded the head of a diving Souček at close range before spinning inches wide of the far post.

Saints then could have pulled one back with 15 minutes left, as Redmond drove into the left side of the box and laid the ball into the path of Tella, but his low, right-footed strike towards the far corner didn’t have enough power on it to seriously trouble Fabiański, who got down to make the save.

Another opportunity to halve West Ham's lead arrived five minutes after that, as Armstrong chipped a pass in behind for Redmond, who again raced into the left side of the box, but he found the side netting after cutting back onto his right foot.

Seconds later and Saints did finally get the ball in the net, as Tella raced onto a Ward-Prowse pass and finished beyond Fabiański, but the offside flag correctly went up against him.Hasenhüttl's final change followed on 84 minutes, as Ings was withdrawn for Michael Obafemi, but the third goal was to go to West Ham as Rice got clear down the left and was able to charge towards goal uncontested, before finishing past McCarthy at the near post.