West Ham United 3 Southampton 0: Marko Arnautovic brace helps Hammers ease past Saints
PUBLISHED: 16:55 31 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:55 31 March 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
Premier League: West Ham United 3 (Mario 13, Arnautovic 17, 45+4) Southampton 0
West Ham United moved five points clear of the Premier League relegation zone after easing to a 3-0 success at home to Southampton.
The Hammers were utterly dominant in the opening half, netting three times after causing the Saints all kinds of problems.
Defending such a large lead, the second half was all about game management for the London Stadium side as they saw the win through without much incident.
West Ham boss David Moyes made two changes from his team’s last competitive game, a 3-0 loss to Burnley three weeks ago.
Declan Rice was recalled to the starting XI, as was Arthur Masuaku, who made his return after serving a six-game ban for spitting in the FA Cup loss at Wigan Athletic.
The pair came in for James Collins and Manuel Lanzini, who both missed out through injury.
The Hammers started brightly, but suffered an early blow when Michail Antonio went off injured in just the ninth minute, looking inconsolable as he departed the pitch.
The east Londoners continued to press and got their reward in the 13th minute when Joao Mario opened the scoring.
Cheikou Kouyate led a swift break for the London Stadium outfit, before passing to Mario on the edge of the box.
The Portuguese international took one touch to set himself, before leathering the ball into the net, sparking jubilant scenes among the home support.
Moyes’ men should have doubled their lead two minutes later when skipper Mark Noble played in Marko Arnuatovic, only for the Austrian to shoot wide.
Arnautovic, though, was able to see atone for his miss as he did net in the 17th minute for West Ham.
Mario delivered a terrific ball in from the right, finding the head of Arnautovic six yards out.
The forward’s initial header was saved by Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal, but Arnautovic was alert to prod home the rebound.
The Hammers continued to dominant the fixture and were able to add a third in first-half stoppage time.
Masuaku delivered a fine, early ball in from the left flank that Arnautovic delicately tucked home at the far post on the volley to send the home fans into nirvana.
At the start of the second half, though, Moyes’ men had to do some defending as the Saints began positively.
After weathering the Southampton storm, Mario nearly nabbed his second of the afternoon in the 60th minute, but could not find the target from an acute angle.
Arnautovic nearly claimed his hat trick seven minutes later, curling an effort from 20 yards narrowly wide of the post.
The Austrian went close again from a similar position in the 75th minute, this time drawing a save from McCarthy.
Defender Aaron Cresswell nearly got in on the scoring act in stoppage time, rattling the crossbar with a volley from the edge of the area.
Had it gone in, it would have capped a splendid afternoon for West Ham, but they no doubt will have been pleased with the win nonetheless.
And with a trip to Chelsea to come for the Hammers next Sunday, the victory against the Saints could prove vital come the end of the campaign.
West Ham (5-3-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Kouyate (Cullen 89), Noble, Mario; Arnautovic (Hugill 79), Antonio (Fernandes 9).
Subs: Adrian (GK), Evra, Pask, Diangana.
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy; Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand; Tadic, Lemina, Hojbjerg, Redmond (Boufal 67); Gabbiadini (Long 46), Austin (Carillo 83).
Subs: Forster (GK), Yoshida, Romeu, Ward-Prowse.
Referee: Jon Moss.