West Ham United: Hammers take gian stride to safety as they make Southampton look like sinners with display that pleased David Moyes
PUBLISHED: 13:15 02 April 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
A Marko Arnautovic brace and a Joao Mario strike helped east Londoners cruise past Saints on Saturday
What a difference three weeks make!
When West Ham United left the field against Burnley after a 3-0 defeat on March 10, things looked toxic both on and off the pitch at the London Stadium.
Flash forward to March 31 and following a 3-0 success at home to Southampton, the mood could not have been more different.
The Hammers took a giant stride towards securing their place in the Premier League next season as they made the Saints look like sinners.
In this relegation six-pointer, an early goal for either side would be vital, and gladly it was West Ham who got it.
Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario, on loan from Inter Milan, nabbed his first goal in claret and blue with a fine effort from the edge of the area in the 13th minute.
Marko Arnautovic should have doubled the Hammers’ lead two minutes later, but fired wide when in a good position.
The Austrian forward, though, atoned in the 17th minute when scoring on the rebound from close range after his initial header had been well saved by Alex McCarthy.
The hosts would surely have been pleased had they led by two at the break, but moved further clear on the stroke of half time.
A pin-point cross from Arthur Masuaku, making his return after serving a six-game ban for spitting, found Arnautovic at the back post, and the attacker duly scored.
With the Hammers in complete control, the second half was about game management, as they sought a clean sheet to go with their win.
In the end, the London Stadium outfit were rarely troubled by a Southampton team that looked disorganised.
A giant roar went around the ground at full time, with supporters fully aware of how important the win was.
And boss David Moyes was delighted to see the turnaround in fortunes for his team on the pitch.
“I’ve got to say we made a great start and we had great support from the first minute and I think it inspired the players as well,” he told the club website.
“The players had a really good go right at the start and thankfully we got a couple of early goals and the third goal just before half-time made a big difference as well.
“We think we’re good enough to be up there in 14th, but we dropped down as our recent results have not been good enough. Thankfully Saturday’s was.
“The supporters were great and I think they have been great here. There are one or two who maybe weren’t, like happened in the last game, but overall the atmosphere in the stadium has been terrific, it really has.
“The players gave them something to shout about. The players showed how much they cared after the way things went in the last home game.”
While Arnautovic may have stolen the spotlight with his double that downed the Saints, Mario was equally impressive.
With Michail Antonio having departed early through injury, the Portuguese international was tasked with offering the main support to Arnautovic.
The 25-year-old was a constant menace throughout, with his pace and trickery causing the Southampton defence problems.
Moyes was delighted Mario could show everyone exactly what he is capable of and hailed the midfielder’s display.
“I think Joao Mario has done well since he came in,” he added.
“I said to a friend the other day ‘tell me who’s made an impact as a signing in January for any Premier League club?’.
“It’s not that easy to think of players who have made an impact from January. To come to the Premier League and play is not easy.
“I think Joao Mario had probably his best game for us on Saturday: he got us a really good goal, he got us the assist for the second one, so that pleased me overall.
I think you’ve got to praise him for what he’s done on Saturday, especially.”
Moyes will hope for more of the same from all at West Ham, not just Mario, in the closing weeks of the season.