Saints overpower Hammers to book quarter-final spot


Southampton progressed to the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup with a hard-fought victory over West Ham United on Wednesday evening, earning a place in the final eight of the competition as a result.

The sparkle was provided by each of the three scorers on the night, but the majority of headlines will belong to Romain Perraud, who struck a rocket of an opener to break the deadlock. A strike befitting of any victory. 

James Ward-Prowse converted from the spot, before Armando Broja sealed it with a goal characteristic of his red-hot form, beating multiple defenders before slotting into the far corner.

The draw for the next round, which will be eagerly anticipated by all of a Southampton persuasion, is due to take place on Thursday, ahead of Everton's matchup with non-league club Boreham Wood. For tonight, though, Saints can revel in yet another success, extending their unbeaten stretch to seven games in all competitions.

There was an air of nervousness around the stadium as the stands began to be filled by another sell-out crowd. Not based on form - Saints entered the tie off the back of an unbeaten run dating back to mid-January - but because of the reward associated with the outcome.

A place in the competition's final eight was up for grabs, parking Saints' Premier League ambitions temporarily, but drawing on the momentum gleaned from this calendar year's fortunes - Ralph Hasenhüttl's side had taken 14 points from a possible 21 on offer.

Confidence could also be sourced from Saints' last encounter with West Ham. The Boxing Day contest wasn't comfortable for either side, but was ultimately edged by the side from Hampshire. A game packed with entertainment value.

And if that meeting were anything to go by, Wednesday night's confrontation, with arguably more at stake, was bound to offer spells of thrill and excitement, if not for the entirety of the 90 minutes. It didn't disappoint.

Ahead of kick-off, tribute was payed to the victims of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, with the big screens displaying a message of solidarity with the Eastern European nation. The message read 'we stand with Ukraine'.

Caution prevailed for the opening few minutes, with the visitors opting to field a full-strength XI. Saints, contrastingly, began with a blend of youth and experience. Nine changes overall, with only Ward-Prowse and Kyle Walker-Peters retaining their title roles.

Star man Jarrod Bowen came to the fore early on. With seven goals since the turn of the year, the forward was clearly not short of confidence. Stealing headlines had become somewhat of a habit. And he nearly made an explosive start to the tie.

With only a minute on the clock, he was committed to a foot race with Jack Stephens, attempting to latch onto a smart ball over the top. The defender was first to it, by a toe, nudging the ball behind for a corner. That set the tempo for the following five minute spell.

Manuel Lanzini's smart link-up with Pablo Fornals nearly yielded a gift of a chance in the 10th minute, as his deft flick worked a yard of space on the edge of the area. He was promptly crowded out by a swarm of defenders, before the ball fell kindly to Thomas Soucek centrally, who arrowed a shot inches wide.

A similar move followed, gaining territory down the left, with Antonio finding enough time and space to lift a cross towards Bowen. The delivery was difficult to direct, but Bowen met it well, glancing a header just wide. Still, Willy Caballero was yet to be tested.

Saints settled thereafter, crafting their first chance of the evening in the 27th minute. Will Smallbone played a no-look pass towards the run of Adam Armstrong in the box, who had made a dart towards the front post. He beat his defender to the ball, catching Kurt Zouma off-guard, but could only turn his first-time effort over the bar. Again Smallbone linked play in the next wave of attack, this time to great effect.

His incisive pass found Shane Long down the right, who fizzed a ball goalward. The pass was cleared to the edge of the area where Walker-Peters was waiting to pounce. What happened next was nothing short of genius. The full-back played an innocuous looking pass square to Perraud, who surprised everyone by letting rip from 25 yards. The finish was devastating.

The net rippled to the sound of rapturous applause inside St Mary's, as the angled drive broke the deadlock in the 31st minute. The cheers would have been louder, had it not been for the audacious nature of the strike, leaving a portion of the ground stunned by the sheer quality of the Frenchman's technique.

A powerful run from Declan Rice nearly derailed Saints five minutes before the break, after he collected Moussa Djenepo's wayward pass. The midfielder travelled half the length of the pitch before off-loading to Antonio, who swivelled to create an opening, only to find Stephens blocking his path.

One last chance was enjoyed by Armstrong before the half came to a close. Perraud's tidy pass found the striker's feet, lurking with intent on the edge of the area, but the finish wasn't quite as measured. Still, the lead made for welcome reading come the break.

The half-time whistle spelled the end of the night for Long and Djenepo, who were replaced by Stuart Armstrong and Broja. Shortly after, Soucek made way for Saïd Benrahma.

A fairly basic corner routine proved to be Saints' undoing on the hour mark, as the boisterous travelling support grew increasingly inpatient with the scoreline. Their calls were answered by Antonio, predictably, who has developed a knack for scoring against Saints.

In truth, the finish was simple. Caballero failed to deal with a corner aimed at the front post area, with the ball dropping fortuitously at the striker's feet. He poked home to draw the Hammers level. But there was plenty more drama to follow.

A tussle between Broja and Craig Dawson inside the box proved fruitful for the hosts, although only after a lengthy VAR review. On pitch referee, Andre Marriner, deemed a last-ditch tackle by the defender to be fair, as Broja hit the deck before he could get his shot away.

The Albanian was certain of foul play - protesting to the officials. After consultation with the pitchside monitor, Marriner overturned his earlier decision and awarded the spot-kick, which was dispatched with expert precision by Ward-Prowse. The captain rarely makes a mistake from that position. Advantage Saints once more, with 23 minutes to play.

Substitute Nathan Redmond nearly took the roof off St Mary's in the 86th minute, with a strike that would have proved decisive. Alphonse Areola was equal to the effort, flying acrobatically across goal to deny the winger his magic moment.

And yet Saints needed an intervention at the opposite end to make the victory certain, with Caballero thwarting Hammers villain Dawson at the death. The chance came from yet another dangerous corner.

Dawson, attempting to atone for his earlier error, rose highest to meet the delivery and powered a header at the upright, only for the Argentine to claw it to safety. The save had him at full tilt, needing an outstretched glove to tip the ball around the post.

With seven minutes of additional time indicated, it was Saints who were to enjoy the last laugh. Strong hold up play from the tireless Armstrong was rewarded. In-form Broja, bursting with confidence and energy, collected the ball from his strike partner on the left but still had plenty to do.

He jinxed inside, cut onto his favoured right boot, and slotted the ball in the far corner. The goal put an end to any flicker of a West Ham revival, arriving in the 95th minute, and prompted a chorus of 'Oh When the Saints' from the St Mary's faithful. The win was secure, and so too a place in the hat for the next round - a job well done as Saints registered their third consecutive home triumph in the space of two particularly productive weeks.