Haller strike gives Hammers victory at Southampton
Southampton 0-1 West Ham United
Sebastien Haller's first half goal gave West Ham United a vital 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.
The Frenchman shot into the bottom right hand corner of Alex McCarthy's net to score his fifth of the season and ensure the Hammers would go into Christmas with the lift of three points.
Manuel Pellegrini's men deserved their victory, and would have had a second goal early in the second half had it not been for a VAR intervention, ruling that the impressive Michail Antonio had handled in the lead up to firing home.
In the end it would not matter as the visitors held off Southampton's late pressure to send their 3,300 travelling fans home happy.
Manuel Pellegrini went with two up-front, recalling Haller to partner Antonio, and the latter had an instant impact, winning a free-kick in a dangerous area inside the first minute.
Robert Snodgrass delivered the set-piece and Declan Rice headed powerfully home, but the celebrations were cut short by an offside flag raised against the Hammers' No41.
Antonio was involved again with eight minutes on the clock, popping up in the right channel and sending a low ball into the box for Pablo Fornals, whose shot was deflected just wide of the mark.
The Hammers continued to threaten and Antonio was convinced he should have been awarded a penalty when Jan Bednarek's challenge sent him to the ground as they competed for an Aaron Cresswell cross. Referee Martin Atkinson disagreed, and the VAR Jonathan Moss concurred with the on-field official.
West Ham deserved a goal and it finally arrived with 37 minutes on the clock. Antonio again played a key role, ploughing a furrow down the right before laying back to Snodgrass. He clipped a cross to the far post where Fornals nodded back for Haller to do the rest, firing home left-footed via the far post.
The second half began just as the first, as the Hammers fashioned an early chance, Fornals finding space inside the area and having his fierce drive touched over the bar, only just, by Alex McCarthy.
At the other end James Ward-Prowse got underneath a Cedric cross and couldn't divert his header on target, before VAR intervened again at the other end, denying Antonio a 52nd minute second.
The one-time Southampton loanee looked to have doubled his side's advantage when he barrelled through challenges from Bednarek and Cedric before lashing past McCarthy, but Moss's check on camera ruled that the ball had brushed Antonio's arm in the build up.
Moussa Djenepo curled a right-footed shot a couple of yards over the top from outside the area midway through the half as Southampton looked for inspiration.
Djenepo was starting to get more involved, and with 20 minutes to go he fed Danny Ings inside the box. He turned sharply and smashed the ball over David Martin's dive, but also against the underside of the bar and to safety.
Haller came so close to wrapping it up eleven minutes from time, heading forcefully goalwards from Antonio's left-wing cross, only for McCarthy to make an excellent save diving to his left.
It was a nervy conclusion to the game for the Hammers, despite their earlier dominance, but they withstood the late pressure to register an important victory.
Southampton: McCarthy, Cedric (Adams 87), Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Redmond (Romeu 46), Long (Armstrong 84), Ings
Subs: Gunn, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Obafemi
West Ham United: Martin, Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble (Diop 88), Snodgrass (Yarmolenko 73), Fornals, Antonio, Haller (Sanchez 79)
Subs: Roberto, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Ajeti
Goal: Haller 37
Booked: Snodgrass, Fredericks, Martin
Referee: Martin Atkinson