Slaven Bilic praised West Ham’s spirit after their resilient display in the 3-2 defeat at Southampton despite conceding a late penalty
They are bottom of the Premier League having also limply lost 4-0 in their their opening fixture of the season at Manchester United, but while down to 10 men had impressively fought back from 2-0 down to almost draw at St Mary’s.
Marko Arnautovic’s first-half red card for a reckless elbow on Jack Stephens had left them a man down from the 33rd minute, by which point Manolo Gabbiadini had already given Southampton the lead.
While Dusan Tadic’s 38th-minute penalty appeared to take a positive result beyond them, Javier Hernandez’s first two goals for the club demonstrated Bilic’s team yet retain promise.
It was Charlie Austin, in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, who scored beyond Joe Hart from the penalty spot after Pablo Zabaleta and Jose Fonte had brought down Maya Yoshida, but Bilic said: “We lost a point but gained a lot of things after the Manchester United game.
“Great team spirit; character; we didn’t give up, and showed quality to play with 10 men for such a long period of time. It’s extremely hard, especially when you’re one down.
“We spoke at half-time and they responded in the best possible way to what we asked of them. I’m gutted, but we gained a lot of things from the performance.
“Yes, of course (Arnautovic apologised in the dressing room). It’s hard to play for 10 men for such a long period of time.
“We knew what we were getting with Hernandez: a really great player, great character, team player, really enthusiastic. You’re expecting goals from him, but it wasn’t only the goals.
“At half-time I asked him to be on the left wing, to track back with (Cedric) Soares, and he did that brilliantly. On top of the goals, his determination; he sacrificed for the team in the best possible way.”
West Ham had also lost central defender Winston Reid to a calf injury in the pre-match warm-up, further favouring Southampton, who won for the first time under Bilic’s counterpart Mauricio Pellegrino.
Their club-record signing Arnautovic may yet receive a lengthier ban than the standard three matches given for a straight red card, and he wrote on Instagram: “I want to apologise to all the West Ham fans.
“Just want to let you know I didn’t want to let my team down and you fans. So please, sorry. A big apology to all of you.”