|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Marko Arnautovic double lifts West Ham and sinks Southampton
Jacob Steinberg at the London Stadium
Date Published Sat 31 Mar 2018 17.20 BST
What a relief it was for the West Ham hierarchy that the only boos at the London Stadium floated out of the away end. There were no pitch invasions, no missiles thrown at the directors’ box. David Gold and David Sullivan were able to keep Sir Trevor Brooking company until the final whistle this time and if there was a hint of mutiny, it came from the Southampton fans who watched their bedraggled team sink closer towards the Championship on an afternoon when the hosts found a way to keep their bitter civil war hidden from their guests.
Of course, it should be pointed out that Southampton did not even begin to flirt with the idea of testing the strength of West Ham’s truce. Mark Hughes’s side wilted in the face of some vintage East End defiance, collapsing in wretched fashion in the opening 45 minutes and wasting a fine opportunity to move out of the bottom three at the expense of their opponents.
David Moyes could not have asked for a better response from his players. The mavericks in his team rose to the occasion, with Marko Arnautovic and João Mário tearing the visitors to shreds, and the victory moved them five points above Southampton, who are two behind 17th-placed Crystal Palace with seven matches left.
One look around this unloved stadium was enough to revive memories of the pitch invasions and protests that marred the Burnley game. Stewards in bright yellow jackets lined the perimeter of the pitch, there was a sizeable police presence inside the ground and barriers below the directors’ box were intended to stop supporters from getting too close to Gold and Sullivan, West Ham’s unpopular owners.
The operation added £60,000 to the security bill, which was footed by taxpayers, and amid all the focus on events in the stands it was almost possible to forget that a game of football was taking place. It began in a lively atmosphere, signalling the crowd’s determination to remain supportive, and West Ham tore into the early challenges, rattling Southampton with energetic pressing.
Mark Hughes picked an attacking 4-4-2 for his first league game, with Charlie Austin fit enough to start up front for the first time since tearing a hamstring on 23 December, but Southampton’s lack of intensity in midfield and organisation in defence in the first half was startling. West Ham roared forward and took the lead when Mario Lemina cheaply lost possession in the 13th minute, allowing Cheikhou Kouyaté to charge down the right and find Mário, who controlled before walloping a brilliant shot past Alex McCarthy.
Mário’s first goal since arriving on loan from Internazionale in January shocked the visitors. West Ham’s bench contained four players without a single Premier League start and Moyes could have done without an inconsolable Michail Antonio limping off in the ninth minute, especially with Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Javier Hernández already unavailable. Yet Southampton were too feeble to expose those weaknesses.
Arnautovic had already spurned one glorious opportunity, screwing a shot wide after being released by Mark Noble, but the forward’s eighth goal of the season arrived in the 17th minute. The marking from Wesley Hoedt and Jack Stephens left much to be desired when Mário crossed from the right and although McCarthy saved Arnautovic’s initial header, the Austrian bundled in the rebound.
Hughes looked disgusted on the touchline. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Lemina were overrun in midfield, Dusan Tadic and Nathon Redmond sunk into their shells on the flanks and Southampton’s fans greeted Jon Moss’s half-time whistle with jeers.
In Southampton’s defence, perhaps it was simply their misfortune to be caught in the middle of Arnautovic’s feud with Hughes. Arnautovic enraged the former Stoke City manager when he inspired West Ham to a 3-0 victory over his old side in December and he was at it his cocky best here, scoring his second in added time with a spectacular volley. A deep cross from Arthur Masuaku, who impressed at left wing-back after returning from a six-match ban for spitting, hung in the air and Arnautovic’s vicious effort flew past McCarthy.
Shane Long replaced Manolo Gabbiadini at half-time, but Southampton did nothing to test Joe Hart’s brittle confidence. The day passed off peacefully in the end.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
WEST HAM XI: Hart 6.5; Zabaleta 7, Rice 7.5, Ogbonna 7, Cresswell 7; Antonio 6 (Fernandes 9, 7), Noble 7.5, Kouyate 8 (Cullen 89), Masuaku 7; Mario 8, Arnautovic 8.5.
Subs not used: Adrian, Evra, Pask, Diangana.
Goals: Mario 13; Arnautovic 17, 45.
Manager: David Moyes.
SOUTHAMPTON XI: McCarthy 5; Soares 5, Stephens 5, Hoedt 5, Bertrand 6; Tadic 5, Lemina 5, Hojberg 5, Redmond 5.5 (Boufal 67, 5); Austin 5 (Carrillo 83) Gabbiadini 4 (Long 46, 5).
Subs not used: Forster, Yoshida, Romeu, Ward-Prowse.
Bookings: Lemina, Bertrand, Tadic.
Manager: Mark Hughes.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.