Saints beaten by solitary first-half strike

By SFC Media time Sat 14 Dec Saints v West Ham
Photo by Matt Watson | Danny Ings
Sat 14 Dec 5.30PM
Premier League
West Ham United
Haller [37']
Højbjerg (37')
yellow card
Snodgrass (45+2') Fredericks (56') Martin (90+4')
Referee: Martin Atkinson | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 27,701

Southampton came up short in pursuit of a third straight home win, as Sébastien Haller’s solitary first-half goal decided a tight game at St Mary’s.

West Ham’s record signing struck with a low, bobbling shot eight minutes before the break, while the dangerous Michail Antonio had a strike chalked off early in the second half by VAR when the Hammers thought they had doubled their lead.

Saints got stronger as the game went on, with Danny Ings desperately unlucky not to score for the sixth Premier League game in a row – hitting the bar 20 minutes from time before curling in a fine finish immediately ruled out for a foul in the build-up.

Ralph Hasenhüttl named an unchanged starting line-up after rating his team’s performance at Newcastle as one of their best on the road all season, despite falling to a 2-1 defeat at St James’ Park.

In something of a throwback to the 1990s, both sides began the game with two wide players in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, but it was the visitors who started on the front foot.

After Antonio was clipped from behind by Jack Stephens, Robert Snodgrass’s free-kick was headed home by Declan Rice, only for the England man to be flagged offside.

Saints were exposed again when Antonio sneaked in behind the defence and pulled the ball across for Pablo Fornals, whose shot bobbled only inches wide via a crucial touch from the sliding Cédric.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Nathan Redmond of Southampton during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and West Ham United at St Mary's Stadium on December 14, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Nathan Redmond chases a loose ball in midfield

Having negotiated a tricky first ten minutes, Hasenhüttl’s men began to settle. Captain Pierre-Emile Højbjerg dug out a cross from the left that hung in the air and invited Shane Long to outjump Aaron Cresswell, but David Martin was able to make a fairly routine save.

Meanwhile, Antonio was getting increasingly frustrated. Having twice been thwarted by the officials in trying to lead West Ham breakaways, the forward was the subject of a VAR review when sent tumbling by Ryan Bertrand, but the technology deemed it nothing more than shoulder to shoulder.

Saints were getting themselves into some promising positions, but on one occasion Nathan Redmond was unlucky with a ricochet that took the ball out of reach, before Moussa Djenepo’s pass through to Ings was fractionally overhit.

In truth the Londoners had shaded the opening period and it was they who struck first eight minutes before the interval.

Again Antonio was involved, before another Snodgrass cross was headed back across goal by Fornals and struck first time by Haller, slightly scruffily into the turf on his left foot, but with enough purchase to skid beyond Alex McCarthy’s dive and into the net via the far post.

The big Frenchman might have had a second straightaway after more good work from Antonio, only for McCarthy to make an excellent point-blank save, although the ball was later adjudged to have gone out of play in the build-up.

Hasenhüttl had seen enough to decide it was time for a change before the restart, adding some extra midfield muscle in the form of Oriol Romeu and sacrificing the attacking output of Redmond.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Danny Ings(R) of Southampton under pressure from Declan Rice(L) of West Ham United during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and West Ham United at St Mary's Stadium on December 14, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Danny Ings was unlucky not to continue his scoring sequence

The second half was only a matter of seconds old when McCarthy was called into action to make a stunning reaction save, flying away to his left to tip over a stinging drive from Fornals that seemed destined for the net.

Back came Saints. Long did brilliantly to chase a lost cause and set up Cédric to deliver a cross just fractionally too high for James Ward-Prowse, before West Ham smuggled the ball behind for a corner.

The biggest threat to the home team remained Antonio, but his luck was out again when VAR intervened to deny the visitors a second goal on 52 minutes.

Having bundled his way through challenges from Jan Bednarek and Cédric, the powerful runner buried an unstoppable shot past McCarthy, only to be retrospectively punished for touching the ball with his hand en route to scoring.

As can often be the case, that reprieve ignited the home crowd and their team followed, as Saints forced a succession of corners and Højbjerg and Djenepo both tried their luck from outside the box, the latter coming closest in narrowly missing the angle of post and bar.

Ings, chasing a goal for the sixth successive top-flight match, came closer still with 20 minutes left, rifling a sharp left-footed shot on the turn against the underside of the bar, before the angle proved too tight for Long on the follow-up.

Ings then hit the post, too, but was flagged offside on this occasion as he raced in behind the defence.

It was becoming a one-man crusade, and Saints’ number nine soon felt the same joy to despair that Antonio had suffered before him, as Ings sent a delicious curling shot beyond the reach of Martin to find the top corner from 20 yards, only for Martin Atkinson to penalise a perceived foul by Djenepo on Ryan Fredericks. It looked soft, to say the least.

At the other end, McCarthy kept his team in it with another top save, low to his left to keep out Haller’s downward header, before Stephens sliced a chance wide from Højbjerg’s cutback as Saints began to throw more and more men forward.

Højbjerg was frustrated with himself when he could not hit the target from Cédric’s low cross late on, before Ward-Prowse’s attempt to repeat his Watford free-kick heroics from a similar position was thwarted by Martin.


Head to Head Stats

West Ham United
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Alex McCarthy (GK)
Cédric Soares
replace Che Adams (87′)
Ryan Bertrand
Jack Stephens
Jan Bednarek
Moussa Djenepo
Nathan Redmond
replace Oriol Romeu (45′)
James Ward-Prowse
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C) yellow card
Shane Long
replace Stuart Armstrong (84′)
Danny Ings
Stuart Armstrong
Angus Gunn
Che Adams
Michael Obafemi
Oriol Romeu
Maya Yoshida
Jannik Vestergaard

West Ham United

David Martin (GK) yellow card
Aaron Cresswell
Fabián Balbuena
Angelo Ogbonna
Ryan Fredericks yellow card
Robert Snodgrass yellow card
replace Andriy Yarmolenko (73′)
Pablo Fornals
Mark Noble (C)
replace Issa Diop (88′)
Declan Rice
Michail Antonio
Sébastien Haller goal
replace Carlos Sánchez (79′)
Pablo Zabaleta
Arthur Masuaku
Issa Diop
Albian Ajeti
Carlos Sánchez
Andriy Yarmolenko
Roberto Jiménez
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