West Ham narrowly saw off relegation rivals Southampton to earn a vital three points, and keep Manuel Pellegrini in the job for another week.
West Ham thought they had made the perfect start after only a minute of play, but Declan Rices header being rightly disallowed for offside. The visitors then appeared unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty, VAR choosing not to take action on a potential push in the box from Ryan Bertrand on Sebastien Haller, or a possible foul on Michail Antonio in the same incident.
The goal did eventually come for West Ham though, Haller striking an accurate but scuffed volley in off the post following Pablo Fornals lovely cushioned header - ending his goal drought and bringing a nervy first half to an end.
Seconds after the restart West Ham nearly added a second, a firm strike from Fornals being fabulously tipped over by Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal. The visitors then had another goal chalked off when Antonios bullish effort was ruled out by VAR for a handball in the build-up, a decision which offered Southampton renewed hope.
Despite West Hams dominance, the hosts nearly equalised with 20 minutes remaining, Danny Ings cannoning a shot off the bottom of the crossbar and Shane Long squandering the rebound. The former then scored a glorious long-distance goal minutes later, before Martin Atkinson pulled play back for a fairly soft foul.
Chances came and went for both teams afterwards, but West Ham held on for a crucial three points, and compiled misery on struggling Southampton.
Key Talking Point
The big issue for Southampton was their lack of creativity in the final third. The hosts continually struggled to break down their opponents, lacking quality and dynamism when going forward, and looking vulnerable to West Hams pace and power on the counter-attack.
The supply routes to in-form striker Ings were non-existent, while the busy work from Long appeared ineffective and a lack of talent in wide areas left the Saints bereft of ideas.
Ralph Hasenhuttl will be worried by what he witnessed, with his Southampton side struggling to contain a West Ham side in dire straits. They looked sluggish for large parts of the game, only finding quality as the game neared its conclusion. With a busy Christmas fixture list, Hasenhuttl will be fearing the worst as his side remain in the bottom three as another week passes.
Starting XI: McCarthy (5); Cedric (5), Stephens (4), Bednarek (5), Bertrand (5); Hojbjerg (5), Ward-Prowse (6), Djenepo (5), Redmond (4); Long (5), Ings (7*).
Substitutes: Romeu (6), Armstrong (5), Adams (N/A).
Southampton really struggled going forward, but whenever they caused West Ham issues, Ings was at the heart of it. He looked the hosts most likely to break the deadlock and still put in a strong performance, despite a lack of service.
Gotta feel sorry for Danny Ings ... hits the bar with one effort, and has a good goal disallowed for a very soft foul #SOUWHU
— Tony Standing (@TonyDJTStanding) December 14, 2019
Key Talking Point
Manuel Pellegrini knew a defeat, or possibly even a draw, against relegation rivals Southampton could spell the end of his time as West Ham manager. The Hammers had lost seven of their last nine matches and confidence was at an all-time low for Saturdays visiting side.
However, despite a torrid run of results, the Irons started the better of the two sides and offered a significant threat going forward. The hard work and powerful running of Antonio and Haller terrorised Southamptons back line, with Pellegrinis decision to set up his side in a 4-4-2 formation looking like a great decision.
The visitors looked so much better than they had in recent performances, looking organised in defence, for a change, and strong in attack. The visitors have dropped plenty of points from winning positions this season, but showed the character and quality to hold what they had...and maybe, just save their managers job.
Starting XI: Martin (6); Fredericks (6), Balbuena (7), Ogbonna (6), Cresswell (6); Rice (6), Noble (7), Snodgrass (6), Fornals (7); Antonio (9*), Haller (8).
Substitutes: Yarmolenko (5), Sanchez (6), Diop (N/A).
Southamptons centre-back pairing sure will be happy to see the back of Antonio. The Englishman played alongside Haller up front and relentlessly bullied the opposition defenders, covering every blade of grass in the process.
On another day, Antonio could have won a penalty and grabbed himself a goal - but VAR had other ideas. Still, it was still a superb performance from the attacker, who is proving to be a nuisance for every team he faces.
Every time I watch that Antonio for West Ham, he’s an absolute tank
— Daz (@_simply_7) December 14, 2019
Give Antonio man of the match already goal or not amazing game
— Nathan Berry (@njcb03) December 14, 2019
Southampton travel to Aston Villa in their next Premier League outing on Saturday 21 December. However, due to their cancelled fixture with Liverpool, West Ham will have to wait until Boxing Day for their trip to Crystal Palace.