Manager Manuel Pellegrini hailed West Ham’s “special season” as their bid for a top 10 finish was enhanced with a comfortable victory over Southampton.
Marko Arnautovic scored twice – his first goals since January – with Ryan Fredericks adding a third with his first Premier League goal.
It moves West Ham to within a point of the top half of the table – something that looked like a big ask after they lost their first four games of the season and stood on just eight points after their opening 10 league matches.
“It’s a special season because we started so badly,” Pellegrini told BBC Match of the Day.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy but we had so many players with injuries – a lot of players that couldn’t play but maybe they will give us the plus we need to improve for next season.
“For me it’s a good season, a consistent season, we are not fighting relegation, but not only in the table but in the stadium too I think a lot of people are happy.”
Arnautovic had given the hosts the lead early in the first half but Southampton had keeper Fraser Forster – making his first appearance since December 2017 – to thank as he thwarted several more Hammers chances.
The Austria striker doubled his and his side’s tally after the break with a simple header from close range, before Ryan Fredericks scored his first Premier League goal just three minutes later.
In a game of very different halves, Southampton – quiet in the first period – came out of the break in a higher gear. However, the two quick-fire Hammers goals, which came against the run of play, took the wind out of their sails.
“The last, very hard four or five months has cost us a lot of energy for this team and we didn’t have enough energy to fight back after a horrible mistake in the first half,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports.
“We tried but the team has invested a lot in trying to stay in the league and the power was a little bit gone. We had a few good chances but it was [the case that] the last good decision in front of goal, the power to score wasn’t here – I think the concentration wasn’t 100%.
“If you come here in a tough game after investing a lot in the last weeks and concede the first goal it takes a lot of energy to fight back. We didn’t have that today.”
Hammers take their chances
Manuel Pellegrini’s side looked to be cruising to the win in the first half, with Grady Diangana among the West Ham players having early efforts on Forster’s goal.
It was Arnautovic – who looked set to leave West Ham for China in January – who broke the deadlock in the 16th minute, latching on to a pass from Mark Noble and giving his side the advantage with a clinical finish.
Arthur Masuaku caused havoc on the left wing as he, Arnautovic and Michail Antonio tried to double their lead but Forster, no doubt eager to impress his manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, proved strong between the Southampton posts.
It was a different story in the second half though, as West Ham struggled to deal with a revitalised Southampton boosted by the half-time introduction of Nathan Redmond.
Noble superbly stopped Stuart Armstrong in his tracks as he powered towards goal, the West Ham captain’s tackle perfectly timed on the edge of the box.
But Arnautovic soon doubled West Ham’s lead, heading in from almost a goal-line position after Forster could only punch a Masuaku cross right into him.
Just minutes later, the three points were all but secured for the hosts, Fredericks blasting the ball in after a neat one-two with substitute Jack Wilshere.
Saints regret missed chances despite inspired Redmond introduction
Southampton are already assured of Premier League status next season but they will rue missed opportunities to take at least a point at London Stadium.
They struggled to contain the Hammers in the first half but Hasenhuttl’s half-time team-talk, and decision to bring on Redmond, did the trick as the dominance quickly switched.
Redmond proved a nuisance to the hosts, going close within seconds of the restart before a volley just five minutes later was deflected out of play.
Mohamed Elyounoussi also had chances to bring his side back into the game, cleverly switching the ball from his left foot to his right before following up with a poor shot. Redmond then went close yet again with a terrific volley that Lukasz Fabianski could only tip over the bar.
Their momentum was stopped however by West Ham’s second-half double and finding three goals in the final 18 minutes to earn a point was never a realistic proposition.
Man of the match – Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)
Hammers do the double – the stats
- West Ham secured a Premier League double over Southampton for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign.
- Southampton lost by a three-goal margin to West Ham in the Premier League for only the fourth time in 34 meetings (also May 2001, October 2012 and March 2018).
- West Ham have won 31 points on home soil this season; their highest total in a single season at London Stadium. They last won more at home in their final season at Upton Park (34 in 2015-16).
- West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic has scored four goals in two Premier League games against Southampton at London Stadium. Indeed, Arnautovic has bagged more Premier League goals vs Southampton than he has against any other team (5).
- Since the start of last season, Arnautovic has been directly involved in 30 Premier League goals (20 goals, 10 assists), 14 more than any other West Ham player.
- West Ham midfielder Mark Noble has provided more Premier League assists in 2018-19 (5) than he has in any other season in the competition.
- West Ham’s Ryan Fredericks scored his first Premier League goal and his first in league competition since scoring in January 2014 for Millwall versus Ipswich in the Championship.
- Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster made his first Premier League appearance for the club since Boxing Day 2017, that match 494 days earlier ending in a 5-2 defeat.
Just one week remains of the 2018-19 Premier League season, and West Ham will bid it farewell away to Watford next Sunday (15:00 BST).
At the same time, Southampton welcome relegated Huddersfield to St. Mary’s.
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