David Hautzig's Match Report
The very first match I ever wrote a report for was Southampton at home four years ago. We had come off a good away win against Palace, including a great half volley goal by new signing Zarate, and things looked promising. And then we stunk, losing 1-3. I allowed my rather raw emotions get the better of me, declaring the loss a huge step backwards for us. Of course I was wrong. Then again, I was right. We still don’t know what direction we are headed as a club, or if we are even on the move at all. Thus, today’s should-have-been-a-home-match-if-it-wasn’t-for-some-absurd-legacy-to-running-in-circles-to-the-left would either tell us last week was a blip against a powerhouse, a worrying trend, or just another day in Claret & Blue. The starting eleven added even more mixed emotions. I was pleased for Declan Rice, yet felt Obiang was treated harshly. Ten minutes before kickoff came the news that Reid welcomed his new six year deal by hurting his ankle…of course he did… paving the way for Ogbonna to start. I’m so discouraged by our defensive play, I doubt it would have changed a thing had he played.
In the opening minutes, a long ball found its way to Hernandez, and with only Yoshida between him and the goal a little excitement seemed in the cards. But a bad touch by who we hope will be our main goal scorer ended the threat. In the 9th minute, Antonio found Arnautovic, who made a diagonal run into the box. But instead of shooting back across the keeper he tried to tuck it in the near corner and shot it wide.
Tell the truth. Every time you heard that Southampton hadn’t scored at home since April, spanning about 900 minutes, you knew we would be the side that ended that drought. In the 12th minute, the inevitable happened when Redmond played Gabbiadini into the box. Fonte completely missed the run of Gabbiadini behind him, and Ogbonna made no move despite seeing the run, and the man who opened the scoring last season at St. Mary’s did it again by doing what Arnautovic should have done minutes earlier.
West Ham 0
West Ham had a chance to score an equalizer in the 22nd minute when Hernandez sent a looping cross into the box that Arnautovic came across to meet with a diving header but Foster was there to push it out for a corner. The corner was taken by Arnautovic. That’s all I will say about that.
I had a season ticket to The New York Rangers ice hockey team for over twenty years, so I’ve seen my share of rough and tumble action. But by the 27th minute, there could have been three red cards handed out by Lee Mason. Tadic early on for a nasty challenge on Chicharito, Lemina for an elbow on Arnautovic, and Noble for a studs up challenge on Lemina. It all came to a head in the 31st minute when Arnautovic lost his mind and elbowed Stephens for a straight red card and a three-match ban. So to put a new spin on old joke from over here, I turned on a football match and a hockey game broke out.
In the 37th minute, Davis made a run into the box. I bet Fonte was simply trying to give him a little cuddle. Like welcoming someone you haven’t seen in years as they come into your home. But Lee Mason obviously didn’t understand the social element there and pointed to the spot. I’m sure Tadic understood what Fonte was doing but didn’t want to be rude to Mason, so he took the penalty without incident.
West Ham 0
Antonio made some news this past week when he defended the actions of Coutinho at Liverpool and the very nature of player power. Well, power is something the guy knows a lot about because he has it in abundance. With the ball at his feet at the top of is box, he fought off three Southampton players to get a shot off that Foster could only palm away, and Hernandez pounced to open his West Ham account.
West Ham 1
The start of the second half saw no personnel changes from Bilic, but the shape changed to Antonio playing the role of lone striker with Hernandez wide left. Just wanted to point it out because writing about the actual action felt too depressing.
The first real chance of the second half fell to the home side when Gabbiadini and Cedric criss-crossed inside the West Ham penalty area, but Cedric’s finish was poor and he chipped it high and wide. A few minutes later a long throw into the box was headed by Ayew into Stephens. West Ham players threw their arms into the air demanding a handball decision, and replays showed Stephens did put his arm out. But Mason didn’t see it, so he didn’t call it.
The Saints came an inch away from a third goal in the 60th minute when Gabbiadini had a look around from 30 yards and decided to let it fly. It sent Hart diving to his left, but it was the crossbar that made the save. A few minutes later, it was Hernandez who tried a long-range effort but it went wide. Southampton came back down the field and this time it was Tadic with a shot from the top of the eighteen yard box that Hart saw all the way and made the save.
The 67th minute saw Bilic finally make a change, with Sakho and Fernandes inserted and Antonio and Ayew withdrawn. Antonio made sense if only to protect his hamstring. Ayew, however, made little sense to me at the time. If I was chasing a game down a man, I’d rather have the poaching possibility that Ayew offers than the defensive support someone like Noble can deliver.
West Ham asked a tough question in the 72nd minute when Hernandez sent in a cross that Sakho was able to head towards goal. It rolled wide and Fernandes tried to get it back into the box but Southampton cleared. But a minute later, a lovely cross in from Cresswell was headed goal ward by Sakho. Foster got a hand on it and knocked it off the bar, but Hernandez was there to score a prototypical poachers goal.
West Ham 2
The fact that Southampton had to make two attacking substitutions, Austin and Long, in the 81st minute is testament to how the home side let what should have been a nailed on three points turn into a real football match. A minute later Southampton missed a golden opportunity to regain the lead when Ward Prowse sent the ball into the box and Yoshida just missed a possible tap in.
In the 89th minute, the crossbar came to West Ham’s rescue again when Redmond tried a long range missile that went off Hart’s hand before it clanged off the bar.
Just when we thought an amazing escape with a point was in the cards, the man you never think would make a mistake in such a critical moment did just that. Zabaleta put his forearm into the back of Yoshida, and Mason immediately pointed to the spot. Austin stepped up and coolly put it past Hart.
West Ham 2
For my summary paragraph here, in the first half I planned to refer back to the season under Grant, when we lost our first three matches and never recovered. After such a hopeful few weeks during the summer with all of the signings, it felt horrifyingly familiar to all of those seasons we spent weeks on end fearful for our top-flight status. Then in the second half I felt emboldened to write about our amazing fighting spirit, which did show itself. Now, I don’t know what to write or even think. I know, it’s only two games. And we seem to have signed an actual goal scorer. But when defensive mistakes are so commonplace they become expected, it’s not heresy to ask questions of both the players in those positions but the people in charge of instructing them. They shouldn’t happen. But they do.
Please check back after the match for the results.