Charlie Austin’s controversial last-gasp penalty secured all three points for Southampton in a feisty encounter against ten-man West Ham at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.
Manolo Gabbiadini opened the scoring with a smart finish into the left corner before things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Marko Arnautovic was sent off for elbowing Jack Stephens.
And West Ham’s nightmare afternoon continued shortly after when Dusan Tadic tucked home a penalty, before summer signing Javier Hernandez halved the deficit just moments before half-time.
Despite their man advantage Southampton struggled to get on top and it was Hernandez who brought West Ham back on level terms with 15 minutes left, poking home from just a yard out.
But – somewhat in keeping with the game – it ended in controversy when Pablo Zabaleta bundled Maya Yoshida over in the box in injury time, and Charlie Austin kept his cool to earn all three points.
Gabbiadini is key to Southampton improving on last season
After Southampton’s season faded last time out under Claude Puel, eventually finishing 15 points behind Everton in seventh place, they will be looking to close the gap and push for European spots.
If they are to get anywhere near the top seven in the Premier League then there’s little doubt that they will be reliant on Manolo Gabbiadini, the man that they acquired from Italian side Napoli, last January – he scored four times in his first three games at St Mary’s last year.
Despite his eight-game drought at the end of last year he was back on form during the victory over West Ham, opening the scoring with a neat finish into the corner to get his season up and running.
His opener also signalled the end of a goal drought for the Saints that lasted 466 minutes, dating back to the end of April, and with Jay Rodriguez sold to West Brom over the summer the Italian will now be more vital than ever if Southampton are going to improve on last season’s disappointment.
West Ham’s summer arrivals give mixed performances
After their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United last weekend West Ham fans can be forgiven for approaching Saturday’s clash with Southampton thinking that it couldn’t get any worse.
But within half an hour at St Mary’s their worst fears were once again a reality, being two goals behind and a man down, and any pre-season optimism felt from their summer signings had gone.
Spending just shy of £50 million on Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez, along with the fellow arrivals of the experienced Joe Hart and Pablo Zabeleta, seemed like numerous steps in the right direction for the Hammers following a relatively poor first season at the London Stadium last year.
But it didn’t transpire like this on Saturday, with Arnautovic’s tendency to lose his cool on the pitch rearing its ugly head once more and seeing his match end early, Hart conceding his 7th goal in just two appearances and Zabaleta clumsily – and controversially – conceding a last-ditch penalty kick.
Hernandez was the only man to leave the south coast with his head held high, opening his Premier League account for West Ham with a smart double, but it’s clear there’s still lots of work to be done.
Lemina has the potential to succeed in England
Southampton’s club record signing Mario Lemina was awarded his first-team debut following his £18million switch from Italian side Juventus and, by all accounts, he showed he could be a key man.
Boss Mauricio Pellegrino obviously sees something in him that warranted spending such a large amount and he showed in glimpses that he could be a powerful and composed midfield character.
It was perhaps a bit of a rude awakening for the 23-year-old, being involved in an early scrap with Mark Noble, but he recovered well and showed his impressive passing range and defensive solidity.
As with any signing it will take a while for Lemina to hit full stride and he could do with more time with his team mates in training but he showed enough to suggest he’ll play an important, protective role this year.