The Runner Sports

A Gritty Heartbreaker: Southamption 3-2 West Ham United

Well, after popping some headache medication and then unwinding for a few days I believe I have enough mental clarity to recount what was an absolute roller coaster of events that was the match between West Ham United and Southampton. In the end, West Ham lost 3-2 on a 93rd-minute penalty given away by Pablo Zabaleta. The second penalty of the night zoomed passed Joe Hart who was hung out to dry and Southampton stole away three points.

The real storylines of the game were the two marquee signings for West Ham, Marko Arnautovic and Chicharito, and they could not have contrasted more from each other. Arnautovic spent the majority of his game time being pulled down, grabbed onto, and tackled late with little avail from the official, and shortly after Chicharito was assaulted by some sort of crane kick, body slam combination from Dusan Tadic, Arnautovic got his revenge. Slinging an errant elbow intentionally into the jaw of the Southampton defender, Arnautovic was shown a straight red card in the 33rd minute and reduced his side to ten men. Being an incident that was clearly intended to hurt the targeted player, Arnautovic will serve a ban well into September, already showing his temper was as much a part of his transfer deal as his skill was. At this point, West Ham was down after a Manolo Gabbiadini goal and shortly there after the confused center back duo of Angelo Ogbonna and Jose Fonte had a huge defensive blunder which inexplicably resulted in Fonte choke slamming the opposition in the penalty box. The resulting penalty shot produced a goal which Southampton added to their total and took into the break. Down to ten men and two goals behind, West Ham was poised to lose an effortless battle. As for Arnautovic, anyone who had heard anything about him knows his physical game-breaking abilities come with a bad attitude that influences his decision making; it is a disappointing start for him, but hopefully he will return poised to help his team rather than hurt them.

The other side of the coin was new West Ham striker Chicharito. Stymied against Manchester United, Chicharito was free to run up the field and enjoyed stronger possession numbers by his club, which encouraged more offensive play. He also benefited from Michail Antonio, the everyday right winger for the club, returning to action. Antonio was an absolute moose running up the wing. Often deflecting bodies aside as he pushed the ball forward, Antonio’s drive to put the ball into dangerous positions allowed Chicharito to stay central in the field and focus on finishing rather than creating. Chicharito broke through for West Ham in the 45th minute to drag his club back into the match. The ball made its way across the box and unmarked, Chicharito buried it in the twine. He would later strike again in the 74th minute to draw the game level. He was a menace on the pitch and the “fox in the box” that the club has advertised him as; he has a natural knack for being where the ball falls to and showed a promising performance for his future at West Ham.

Despite Chicharito’s efforts, West Ham would lose this match on the second penalty kick of the match. A slight shove in the back of the Southampton attacker garnered a flailing jump reminiscent of an elegant ballet dancer, and was a convincing enough performance for the West Ham defender to receive a yellow card and for a penalty kick to be given. It was an absolute heartbreaker. West Ham had battled back and showed so much grit in their abilities to hold off Southampton with only 10 men on the field. The match was chippy and far out of control for the official from the first minute on. Tadic’s awkward tackles and Zab’s push were polar opposites in intention and in egregiousness, however, only one was permitted as an excuse to end the draw West Ham had earned. It is disheartening as well for Zabaleta who, alongside left back Aaron Cresswell, had a terrific game defending yet again. He often had to cover for his befuddled center backs who seemed lost and out of place for the majority of the match, but this defensive responsibility was all erased with a push he should not have made and a penalty that should not have been called. Zabaleta is enough of a veteran that he should have known better, and the fact that the call was ridiculous does not take responsibility away from Zabaleta as he should not have allowed for the referee to make a decision on the match.

Now last in the table and owners of a 2:7 goal differential, West Ham need to climb out of this hole by beating Newcastle and Huddersfield in upcoming league matches. Both teams are newly promoted to the Premier League and West Ham has a large advantage over them on paper. It is time to grab the season by the reins and reassert themselves back in the table. The loss to Southampton was one that cannot be taken lightly; points were given away to a team that is in a similar position in the table and that match could have adverse effects on positioning at the end of the season. West Ham needs to settle, relax, and play football with the same grit and determination they showed in their last match, only with a positive result at the end.

Adam Smith
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Adam Smith

West Ham United Writer at The Runner Sports
Proud supporter of the Claret and Blue, West Ham United!
Actively interested in transfer news, match reports, developing story lines, and all things West Ham United!
Adam Smith
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