22/02/2014: West Ham 3-1 Saints

Saints blew a 1-0 lead, going down 3-1 at West Ham. Mauricio Pochettino's men had their moments over the course of the 90 minutes, but were made to pay for some slack defending and poor finishing.

Saints made a patient start to the game, slowly playing the ball out from the back, and occasionally looking for Jay Rodriguez with speculative balls over the top. The team was rewarded for their solid start with a goal on 8 minutes. Adam Lallana had been hacked down on the right by James Tomkins. From the resulting free-kick Steven Davis crossed for Maya Yoshida to head in for his first Premier League goal.

West Ham upped the tempo after the goal, but Saints initially continued to control the centre of the park with some intricate short passing. Kevin Nolan hooked towards goal from a penalty box scramble, but Artur Boruc easily gathered. The home side then began to overpower their opponents. West Ham definitely had the physical edge. They were level on 20 minutes. It was a close call, but Matt Jarvis looked marginally offside before taking the ball down and slotting it through Boruc. Three minutes later The Hammers were ahead. Carlton Cole headed against the post from a corner. Yoshida had difficulty adjusting his body and failed to clear the rebound, allowing Cole to nip in and score.

Saints almost levelled completely against the run of play when Lambert nodded onto the near post on 32 minutes. The visitors managed to slow the tempo, controlling possession without being able to find any gaps in the West Ham backline.

Saints passed the ball about well early in the second half without really penetrating West Ham's defence. A couple of early corners amounted to nothing. Luke Shaw shot straight at the impressive Adrian on 53. The addition of Hammers substitute Mohamed Diame took the sting out of the game for a short period of time. Pochettino countered with a change of his own, bringing on Gaston Ramirez for Jack Cork.

Ramirez was involved almost immediately, brilliantly turning on the edge of the area, before firing just over the bar. A lot more space was opening up for Saints. Lallana poked just wide after getting his foot on a long through ball. Just when it looked as if the visitors were going to get back into the game, they were hit with a sucker punch at the other end, when Kevin Nolan scored an overhead kick to make it 3-1.

Saints created plenty of chances during the final 15 minutes, but were wasteful once again. Lambert had a free-kick fly straight into the path of Adrian. Lallana had a shot tipped wide at the near post. From the resulting corner, Yoshida had a header deflected just over. West Ham could have added a fourth when Diame smashed against the bar from distance. Ramirez and Rodriguez had further opportunities towards the end, by which time the game was out of reach.

A difficult one to assess. Saints were not quite at their best, but played well in spells, and had enough chances to get at least a point. Pochettino's team conceded three sloppy goals, but the all-round performance was not too concerning. One positive to take from the game was the return of Gaston Ramirez. There was a worry that the Uruguayan might take a while to get back to the level he was at just prior to his injury, but he did, outshining pretty much every other player in a Saints shirt. Ramirez gives us the guile and creativity that nobody else really does. He's really embraced his role as impact sub, and looks like he's finally living up to his very big potential.

Attendance: 33,148 (2,945 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 6. Possibly could have done a little bit better for the first West Ham goal, but otherwise didn't really have much to do apart from grab the ball out of the net a couple more times

Chambers: 6. Steady enough. Worked the right flank fairly well.

Fonte: 6. Didn't come out on top in every battle he went into, but overall an ok performance

Yoshida: 6. A real up and down game. Scored, but struggled with West Ham's physical presence early on. Found his feet later in the game and generally did well at the back, but passing a bit suspect at times

Shaw: 6. Passable defensively. A bit sloppy on the ball at times, particularly in the first half. Created a couple of chances in the 2nd half with some good runs down the left

Cork: 6. Matched up fairly well to West Ham's physical threat

Davis: 6. Always showing for the ball. Did his best to keep the tempo fairly high

Schneiderlin: 6. Some good passing, but far from his best display

Lallana: 6. Bright in spells, just missing that finishing touch

Lambert: 6. Displayed a good range of passing early on, but had started to wane long before coming off

Rodriguez: 6. Some good defensive work, but pretty poor within shooting distance

Substitutes

Ramirez: 7. Make a real difference for Saints in the attacking third. Created plenty of chances out of nothing

Ward-Prowse: A couple of good set piece deliveries

Gallagher : Didn't really get involved in the game