30/08/2014: West Ham 1-3 Saints
Saints secured their first league win of the season with an enterprising display at West Ham. Ronald Koeman's men were the best side throughout, but were particularly impressive in the 2nd half.
The away side were more positive than their opponents during the early going. Saints saw plenty of the ball, building patiently on the floor from the back. Morgan Schneiderlin started as the deepest midfield player in the centre, with Steven Davis on the right and James Ward-Prowse on the left. Shane Long and Dusan Tadic flanked Graziano Pelle.
West Ham were as physical as you would expect, and managed to take the sting out of Saints' game somewhat, following a positive start. The home side had a couple of set pieces, but most of the action was fairly scrappy. Ricardo Vaz Te came agonisingly close to opening the scoring for The Hammers when a deflected free-kick fell to him in the box, but his close range shot was tipped round the post by the feet of Fraser Forster.
West Ham did take the lead on 27. The move started when Zarate nipped in to win the ball off Schneiderlin from Pelle's pass. Mark Noble took it on before seeing his 30 yard shot deflect off Yoshida past Forster. Saints responded fairly well to the setback, creating a few half chances. Pelle nodded past the post before Davis blasted well over from Dusan Tadic's deflected cross. Saints were afforded plenty of space out wide, but the equaliser came from a set piece. The goal could hardly have come at a better time, just before the interval. Tadic's free-kick on the left evaded a number of players before falling to Schneiderlin at the back post. The Frenchman had his first effort blocked, before perfectly placing the ball into the top corner for 1-1.
Saints really upped the tempo in the 2nd half. Koeman's men moved the ball about incredibly quickly and there was plenty of variety in the way the team attacked. Long saw his shot tipped just wide of the post by Adrian at the start of the 2nd half. Soon after, Pelle couldn't quite get his foot on Nathaniel Clyne's low cross, which fizzed along the six yard box. West Ham had a couple of openings on the counter, but were very much second best on the balance of play.
A beautifully worked counter attack resulted in Tadic having a shot pushed wide at the near post. Schneiderlin fired over under pressure from the resulting corner. Pelle was incorrectly judged to have been offside when he headed in from Ward-Prowse's free-kick. Saints continued to steam forward, with Long testing Adrian once again. The second goal finally arrived on 68. Tadic and Ward-Prowse caught West Ham off guard with a quickly worked short corner. Ward-Prowse whipped the ball into the near post, with Schneiderlin flicking on past Adrian.
Saints never really looked in danger of surrendering their lead, continuing to dominate possession and find gaps in the West Ham defence. Pelle shot low at the keeper, having been cued up by Tadic from a free-kick. The Italian was given another opportunity on 85, and this time made no mistake. Substitute Jack Cork was afforded plenty of space to drive forward. He played in Clyne, who advanced into the penalty area. His cross bounced back out to Pelle, who calmly finished into the roof of the net. Saints had further chances to extend their lead before the final whistle, and a bigger victory certainly wouldn't have flattered them.
A superb display from Saints. The visitors had some good spells of possession in the first half, but tore through West Ham in the second. Saints had plenty of success on the road last season, but were rarely as expansive as they were on this occasion. The energy that was missing against West Brom was back and the team looked as if they had a much clearer idea about how they wanted to go about winning the game. It's the first time Saints have come from behind to win away from home since the team won promotion back to the Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino didn't get a lot wrong at St Marys, but perhaps the one thing you could criticise him for was his unwillingness to mix things up. Koeman has proven to be fairly flexible so far. If we can combine his tactical astuteness with the energy and skill we displayed at Upton Park then we could be in for another enjoyable season.
Forster: 7. A bit unlucky to concede from a deflected shot, but one brilliant save from Vaz Te. Didn't have much to do in the 2nd half with the ball at the other end
Clyne: 8. Superb once again at both ends of the pitch. West Ham often troubled by his crossing
Fonte: 7. Dealt with everything pretty comfortably. Another solid showing
Yoshida: 8. Possibly Saints' best player so far this season. Made a number of brilliantly timed challenges
Bertrand: 7. Offered another attacking outlet, constantly pushing on. Decent defensively too
Schneiderlin: 8. What a man. Arguably could have done better for the first goal, but more than made up for it with two at the other end. Used the ball well and tactically astute as ever
Davis: 7. Best league showing so far. Displayed some great skill
Ward-Prowse: 8. Set piece delivery excellent once again, but much more dynamic in open play too
Tadic: 8. Instrumental in helping Saints carve West Ham open. Some superb footwork
Long: 7. Starting to show what he is all about now after a couple of tentative performances in previous games. Looked a lot more mobile, making some excellent runs and opening up space on the break
Pelle: 8. Koeman called for more aggression and he certainly got it here. A constant menace in the West Ham penalty area
Ramirez: 7. Handy on the counter towards the end of the game. Drew a few fouls too
Cork: 7. A great run for the 3rd goal
West Ham - Noble (27)
Saints - Schneiderlin (45, 68) Pelle (83)
Referee: Mike Dean
West Ham: Adrian, O'Brien, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Downing, Zarate (Morrison 57), Vaz Te (Diame 58), Cole (Valencia 79)
Subs not used: Jaaskelainen, Sakho, Demel, Poyet
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Davis, Ward-Prowse (Cork 71), Tadic, Long (Ramirez 66), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Hooiveld, Gardos, Wanyama, Mayuka