Saints Spoil Hammers Festive Cheer As Poor Form Continues
Southampton dampen Hammers Christmas celebrations by stealing all 3 points at London Stadium
With the first Boxing Day fixture in front of the fans at the London Stadium, the Saints were in no mood for giving as they sealed a victory in front of a less than full stadium to pour cold water over Hammers festive cheer.
The party atmosphere was in full swing before the game, despite some fans struggling to get to the match during the Boxing Day with the impact of COVID and travel chaos that left some stranded and missing a game filled with the range of emotions you would find in a Christmas holiday movie – although the ending was not filled with the usual Hollywood feeling good theme of joy to all and the spirit of giving was definitely absent in the result.
The Hammers makeshift defence struggled throughout as Southampton looked dangerous on the attack with plenty of early pressure as Mohammed Elyonoussi fired home from outside the box beyond the diving Lucasz Fabianski to set the tone for the match. It wasn’t until just before half time that Fraser Foster was tested by Nikola Vlasic but the rebound went beyond everyone to leave the Hammers behind at the break.
In all fairness the Saints were value for their lead at half time with the Hammers looking leggy throughout the first half and the crowd sensed this was not going to be their day. The atmosphere was decided frosty compared to previous matches and the ghost of Christmas past was leading us into another difficult festive period having not won in any competition since that amazing victory against Chelsea on 4th December. What a difference some key injuries can make to a side that was flying high in 4th place.
The second half saw the ghost of Christmas present sprinkle some hope around the ground with Michael Antonio and Manuel Lanzini replacing Vlasic and Fornals that had an immediate impact on the team. Toothless in the first half the Hammers now looked dangerous on the break. Jarrod Bowen’s corner found Antonio who was alert enough to equalise from close range. As is the way these days, celebrations don’t make goals until VAR says so, and the sprinkle of good will and increased control of the game was finally having its effect.
The game was becoming a real Boxing Day encounter with end to end play, as Declan Rice shot went just wide of the post, the Saints dashed on the break and took the lead again albeit through a VAR penalty decision against Dawson as he tumbled into the area with Armando Borja. From where we stood, it was not a a good decision and we sensed the gloom of the ghost of Christmas future casting its shadow across the pitch as James Ward-Prowse put the sleigh’s reins back into the Saints hands.
Bowen and Said Benrahma looked to get us back into the game as Bowen’s cross was poked in to draw level again. The crowd sensed another Chelsea come back and a late Christmas present to send us away blowing festive bubbles into the night, but there was yet another twist to the story. 70 minutes in and Ward-Prowse sent over a free kick that Bednarek rose to head beyond Fabianski and the Saints grabbed the reins for the last time to steer them to their first win in seven games and 9 points clear of the drop zone.
We paid for our first half sloppiness and despite the returning Antonio and Lanzini’s much needed creative influence and purpose in the second half, the Hammers now have one win in December and slip to 6th in the league. European hopes dashed as our dreams fade and die? Well of course not, we are halfway through the season, still in Europe and Leeds to play in the FA cup and a run of games that we will definitely earn points from coming up in the New Year schedule. Let’s not take the Christmas tree and festive decorations down just yet as there is still plenty to play for.
I hope and pray everyone had a great Christmas and wish you all the very best in the New Year. COYIs