Haller Crowns Victory at Saints
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 15 Dec 2019 12:25:00
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After going so long without a home victory, Southampton had picked up maximum points from their last two games in front of their own fans but West Ham United put an end to that, as they won 1-0 at St Mary's in Saturday's late kick-off.

For the first time this season, Manuel Pellegrini opted to go with two upfront. Felipe Anderson's absence through illness meant that Sébastien Haller partnered Michail Antonio. Andriy Yarmolenko wasn't involved in the home game against Arsenal six days ago, due to a back problem but he was back on the bench for the trip to Hampshire.

The change of formation seemed to be paying dividends right from kick-off, as the Hammers thought they had taken an early lead when Antonio won a free-kick. It was left to Robert Snodgrass to whip the set-piece into the area and Declan Rice was able to get his head to it. The away end went wild as the ball flew past Saints' goalkeeper Alex McCarthy but unfortunately, the goal was ruled out for offside.

The visitors went into this game in sixteenth place in the Premier League table, knowing if they were to come away with nothing, they would end up in the bottom three. Instead of dwelling on that fact, they were positive and went close to going ahead eight minutes later. Antonio continued to be a real threat, as he set up Pablo Fornals but the Spaniard's effort took a deflection on its way through to goal and went inches wide.

Pellegrini's men continued to cause problems for Ralph Hasenhüttl's side and thought they should have been awarded a penalty after Antonio went down following a tussle with Jan Bednarek as they both tried to reach a delivery from Aaron Cresswell. Referee Martin Atkinson wasn't interested and the VAR evidence didn't prove strong enough to change the outcome.

Thirty seven minutes had passed when the visitors finally edged ahead and Haller scored for the first time since the 2-1 home reverse to Crystal Palace on October 5. A great team move involving Antonio, Snodgrass and Fornals allowed the Frenchman's left-footed shot to go in off the post. This time there was no flag and the goal stood.

The travelling support again cheered their team off as the half-time whistle blew. They were just hoping that they could do the same again come full-time.

Hasenhüttl must have had some strong words for the hosts during the break, as the Irons emerged from their dressing room well ahead of the Saints.

West Ham were in no mood to let their energy levels drop as they continued to pressurise their opponents. It would be fair to say though that McCarthy was keeping his side in the game, as he managed to get a hand to a venomous shot from Fornals.

Chances came at a premium for the Saints but when they did get them, they were wasted. James Ward-Prowse went close but his attempt failed to trouble visiting goalkeeper David Martin.

VAR wasn't on the Hammers' side in this game, as Antonio's surging run eluded the home side's defence and he beat McCarthy to put them further in front on fifty two minutes. However, the effort was again disallowed, as the former Nottingham Forest man was adjudged to have handled.

Having been in control for most of the encounter, Pellegrini's men had to keep their shape, as the hosts suddenly came on strong. Summer signing Moussa Djenepo tried his luck but sent his curling shot over before being involved again just minutes later when he played in Danny Ings who nearly beat Martin but thankfully for those in the away end, the shot came back off the bar.

After that spell of pressure, West Ham made their first change, taking off Snodgrass and introducing Yarmolenko. After Haller saw his header brilliantly saved by McCarthy six minutes later, Pellegrini decided to rest the Frenchman and throw on Carlos Sánchez in his place.

Hasenhüttl's men were throwing everything they could at the visitors but the Hammers looked comfortable.

The Irons' boss made use of his final substitution with two minutes of normal time to play as Issa Diop replaced Captain Mark Noble.

Four minutes of stoppage time were originally signalled at the end of the encounter. However, this was extended when Martin picked up an injury but after lengthy treatment, he was able to carry on. After the game, Pellegrini confirmed that he had a muscle problem but given that the East Londoners aren't in action again until Boxing Day, he should have enough time to recover.

The final whistle blew insuring that the Irons moved up one place in the table. West Ham's Christmas fixture schedule has been slightly truncated this year due to Liverpool's participation in the Fifa Club World Cup tournament, meaning they will have a sizeable break ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park.

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