West Ham ease to victory in final home match of the Premier League seasoh
PUBLISHED: 17:07 04 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 04 May 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
Marko Arnautovic scores a deadly double for the Hammers to sink the Saints
West Ham United 3 Southampton 0
The Hammers signed off with a welcome win at the London Stadium, where Marko Arnautović rediscovered his shooting boots with a double-barrelled blast that fired him into double-figures for the season.
The Austrian – who had not netted for the Hammers since early January – calmly fired West Ham ahead on the quarter-hour mark, before then scrambling home his second, 20 minutes from time to join Felipe Anderson on 10 goals at the top of the Claret & Blue scoring charts.
And shortly after Arnautović had bagged his 21st career goal for the Hammers, it was left to Ryan Fredericks to seal victory with his first-ever Premier League strike.
Last Saturday's valiant victory at Tottenham Hotspur had ended a four-match, win-less streak for the Hammers as they became the first team to score – and then triumph – at Spurs shiny new stadium.
Seven days on, Manuel Pellegrini made three enforced changes to his side - kicking-off in 11th spot, five places and eight points above the visitors – as Manuel Lanzini, Pedro Obiang and Grady Diangana came in for Anderson (ill), Declan Rice (ill) plus the suspended Robert Snodgrass, while Carlos Sánchez made a welcome return to the bench after a seven-month absence with a knee injury.
And after Stuart Armstrong had blazed over with the first effort of the afternoon, it was Diangana who attempted to draw first blood for the Hammers, but his long-ranger also cleared the visitors' crossbar.
The struggling Saints had been beaten by Manuel's men at St Mary's Stadium in late-December but their spring revival saw Ralph Hasenhüttl's team finally secure Premier League safety with a thrilling 3-3 draw against south coast rivals, AFC Bournemouth, last weekend.
With their top-flight status assured, the Austrian made a quartet of switches as Armstrong, Fraser Forster, Mohamed Elyounoussi, and Mario Lemina all earned recalls at the expense of the benched Angus Gunn, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond.
As the quarter-hour mark approached, Elyounoussi cleverly set himself up for a neat half-volley that curled wide, before Arnautović immediately showed the Norwegian how it should be done, when Yan Valery's sloppy pass was intercepted by Mark Noble.
The ever-alert Hammers captain, sent Arnautović racing clear with a perfectly-weighted, defence-splitting pass that the Austrian rifled past the helplessly-exposed Forster from 16 yards to clinically break the deadlock.
Midway through the half, Lanzini forced the Saints' stopper to acrobatically beat away his angled 20-yarder and, when Fabián Balbuena's lofted clearance sent Arnautović racing clear shortly afterwards, West Ham looked set to double their lead but the striker's close-control sadly deserted him at the vital moment.
Last week's match-winner, Michail Antonio, then sent Forster into a low save with a 20-yard drive, while Arthur Masuaku launched another long-ranger high into the Hammers fans, who were unfortunately about to be deluged by a murky, May monsoon.
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The sun was shining by the time that the two teams emerged for the second half and, with Redmond replacing Danny Ings for the restart, Balbuena was soon forced to deny the newly-arrived substitute.
With many Claret & Blue fans also seemingly leaving at the interval to cheer on the Hammers women's team in their FA Cup final at Wembley, the reported attendance of 59,961 had reduced as the lively Redmond saw another shot blocked at the expense of a corner.
Certainly, Redmond was galvanising Southampton, who were looking the most dangerous, and the substitute striker then saw Lukasz Fabianski tip over his goal-bound scorcher.
Having been booked for trying to thwart another breakaway, Lanzini then saw Forster divert his low shot around the near post before Ward-Prowse replaced Armstrong and Jack Wilshere came on for Diangana, midway through the second period.
Those two new faces were still surveying their surroundings, though, when Arnautović doubled the lead with 20 minutes remaining, when Forster could only punch Masuaku's left-wing cross onto the Austrian, who reacted quickest to nod the ball over the line to his tenth strike of the campaign.
And with Southampton still coming to terms with that goal against the run of play, the Hammers then struck a killer third just a couple of minutes later.
The free-running Fredericks found Wilshere on the edge of the area and the substitute's sublime back-heel unlocked the door for the West Ham right-back to collect the return and lash a low, angled 10-yarder across both Jack Stephens and Forster to claim that first-ever Premier League goal of his career.
Sanchez then replaced Noble, who departed to appreciative applause and, after substitute Oriol Romeu had been cautioned for upending Antonio, Lucas Pérez came on for Lanzini and, in the closing moments, Arnautović might even have claimed the match-ball and taken pole-position in the race to be Hammers top-scorer but his 18-yarder curled agonisingly wide.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Fredericks, Masuaku, Balbuena, Diop, Obiang, Noble (Sánchez 78), Lanzini (Pérez 81), Diangana (Wilshere 67), Antonio, Arnautović. Unused subs: Adrián, Zabaleta, Hernández, Ogbonna,
SAINTS: Forster, Valery, Bertrand, Bednarek, Stephens, Højbjerg, Elyounoussi, Armstrong Ward-Prowse 67), Lemina (Romeu 74), Long, Ings (Redmond h/t). Unused subs: Gunn, Austin, Targett, Ramsay.
Booked: Lanzini (62), Romeu (80).
Referee: Stuart Attwell.