Saints Deliver Sucker Punch to Hammers

Southampton won on their first visit to Stratford back in September 2016 but in the first ever Boxing Day match to be played in East London, they achieved only their second victory, as they beat West Ham United 3-2.

David Moyes made four changes from Wednesday night’s defeat at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Vladimír Coufal was available again having served his one match ban after being sent off against Arsenal, eleven days earlier. The Czech defender replaced Ben Johnson, while Saïd Benrahma returned to the starting line-up in place of Manuel Lanzini. Łukasz Fabiański returned in goal to take the place of Alphonse Areola. Nikola Vlašić retained his place from the trip to North London and came in for Michail Antonio but the former Nottingham Forest man was selected amongst the substitutes.

It’s been a busy fixture schedule for the hosts in recent weeks and there were signs that the hectic period might have just taken its toll, they started slowly and were behind within eight minutes of the action commencing. Mohamed Elyounoussi powerfully shot from outside of the area and it gave Fabiański no chance.

The Saints were applying pressure in an attempt to make their advantage more comfortable but the Irons stood firm.

Vlašić went close for the home side but goalkeeper Fraser Forster was up to the test and foiled the Croatian.

Elyounoussi tried his luck again but fortunately, his luck had deserted him this time around, as the effort was straight at Fabiański.

The atmosphere was unusually flat during the first period and when referee Kevin Friend blew the half-time whistle the home fans showed their disapproval at that performance.

Moyes agreed with the majority inside the stadium and made two changes at the break as he replaced Vlašić and Fornals with Antonio and Lanzini.

Antonio was desperate to score as he has not done so since he notched up the winner in the top-flight victory over Spurs back on 24 October and within four minutes of the action restarting, he did just that as Jarrod Bowen sent a corner kick over and Craig Dawson headed it back into the danger area where Antonio finally beat Forster to the relief of the home faithful.

The game was only level for a matter of eleven minutes however, as on the hour mark, Dawson was involved in another key moment. Friend had initially waved away appeals from the travelling contingent from the South Coast for a penalty but he was advised to review his original decision on the pitchside monitor. After a lengthy second look, he decided to give the spot kick.

Fabianski has saved more Premier League penalties than any other goalkeeper, which included one from Alexandre Lacazette in their last league encounter but unfortunately although going the right way, there was too much power on James Ward-Prowse’s effort for the Pole to keep it out.

It didn’t take long for the home side to equalise for the second time as Benrahma netted his first goal since the home defeat to Manchester United back on 19 September and the fans were hoping to hold on for a point at least, or maybe even three. The Algerian was on the end of Bowen’s cross to have Forster beaten again.

However, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men had the final say, when Jan Bednarek was allowed to head in unchallenged from a Ward-Prowse free-kick.

Both teams made substitutions in the closing stages of the encounter as the East Londoners replaced Benrahma with Andriy Yarmolenko and the visitors brought on Che Adams for Armando Broja.

Although six minutes of stoppage time were signalled, the Hammers were unable to take anything from the match.

The Irons have already suffered a home defeat to Brentford this season and will try and get back to winning ways against another of the top-flight newcomers on Tuesday afternoon as they travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford.