West Ham 3-0 Southampton: Time to renew those passports

Matt Stead
Pablo Fornals celebrates his goal

Pablo Fornals hit a quickfire double against Southampton to secure Europa League qualification for West Ham.

The Hammers started the day in control of sixth place and the final qualification spot for Europe’s secondary competition, needing only a point at home to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s struggling Southampton.

Saints had the better start and should have taken the lead through Takumi Minamino but his effort curled just past the post of Lukasz Fabianski when through on goal.

West Ham took full advantage of that let-off as Fornals scored twice around the half-hour mark to guarantee their best ever Premier League points total, with Declan Rice adding a late third.

A maiden appearance in the group stages of the Europa League now beckons for a side tipped to struggle again at the start of the season.

Whether David Moyes can build a squad capable of the gruelling Thursday-to-Sunday slog is something to worry about another day. This was time to celebrate a notable achievement for the 58-year-old former Everton and Manchester United boss, now enjoying a genuine career renaissance.

A crowd of 10,000 were finally allowed into the London Stadium to laud a team which has exceeded all expectations, even those of Moyes himself.

Perhaps understandably they had a couple of jittery moments in the early stages, not least when a Southampton counter-attack saw Danny Ings and Stuart Armstrong combine to send Minamino through on goal.

The on-loan Liverpool winger lifted the ball over the advancing Fabianski but it floated just wide of the far post.

West Ham almost profited from Alex McCarthy dropping a corner onto the shoulder of Kyle Walker-Peters, forcing Mohammed Salisu to hook the ball off the goal-line.

Mohammed Salisu clears the ball off the line

Craig Dawson looped a header onto the roof of the net and Fornals volleyed over before the nerves were finally calmed on the half-hour mark, when Jarrod Bowen raced onto Michail Antonio’s header and shot across goal.

McCarthy could only palm the ball out to the feet of Fornals, who smashed home the rebound.

Two minutes later the hosts were two ahead, Fornals again the man in the right place to turn in a low cross from full-back Vladimir Coufal.

After the break Fabianski palmed an angled Minamino shot over the crossbar and, from the corner, acrobatically tipped away Jan Bednarek’s header.

Nathan Tella then had the ball in the net but a linesman’s flag denied him a second goal in three matches.

However, it was an underwhelming end to a streaky season for Southampton, a 15th defeat from their last 21 matches and an unwanted club record of most goals conceded in a single Premier League campaign.

That tally reached 69 when Chelsea target Rice capped a memorable season personally with the third goal, five minutes from time.

The young England midfielder, who has captained West Ham superbly throughout the campaign, collected a chip from Fornals, strode forward and stroked the ball past McCarthy to get the European party started.