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Saints march into east London to hammer West Ham

CONGRATS: Goal scorer Charlie Austin (right) put his team on track for three away points in London

SLAVEN BILIC already looked forlorn on the touchline as Southampton’s third goal capped an emphatic victory for the visitors.

There were swathes of empty seats around the London Stadium as substitute James Ward-Prowse added further gloss to a slick and incisive Southampton performance in additional time at the end of the second half.

Their victory – the Saints’ fourth in a row following a slow start to the campaign – sent them up to tenth and hints at yet another regeneration act following another summer of plunder on the south coast that included the losses of Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and first team coach Ronald Koeman.

By contrast, West Ham remain in the bottom three and are in real danger of being dragged into a relegation battle following a fifth defeat in their opening six Premier League matches.

Injuries to key personnel provide some mitigation for their persistent defensive ineptitude as well as their lightweight look in midfield and lack of guile in attack, but this is still a team of under-performers.

A new stadium cannot explain away all these deficiencies; just as Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio cannot always dig West Ham out of holes.

West Ham initially repelled the visitors, but their makeshift defence cracked on 40 minutes as Charlie Austin pierced any burgeoning confidence with his fifth goal in four appearances.

The excellent Steven Davis pinged the ball into the path of Dusan Tadic, who picked up Ryan Bertrand as he momentarily escaped the attention of Angelo Ogbonna. His cutback was swept home by Austin, who had previously had his long-term fitness questioned by West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan.

Having previously given the impression of biding their time, Southampton sprung to life and could have been further ahead by the time Jonathan Moss’ half time whistle signalled a chorus of boos.

The tide of visiting black shirts did not abate after the break, even if Tadic, who was a handful all afternoon, had to wait until after the hour mark to claim Southampton’s second.

Winston Reid and Cheikhou Kouyate dithered in the centre under pressure from Davis. The ball broke to the increasingly influential Nathan Redmond, who found Austin out wide. The poacher turned provider for Tadic, who rounded Adrian with a swivel of his hips that left the Spanish goalkeeper on his backside as he slotted home his first Saints goal of the season.
It was only in the final 20 minutes that West Ham seemed to find a greater sense of urgency, although Fraser Forster was not once tested in the Southampton goal.

When the visitors claimed their third in a rapidly emptying arena it was richly deserved. As West Ham continued to flounder, Southampton’s main attacking threats continued to pour forward in confident fashion. Redmond picked out Davis, whose cut-back from the goal line was gobbled up by the onrushing Ward-Prowse.

Southampton continue to look upwards while West Ham entertain Middlesbrough next Saturday in a contest that looks increasingly must-win for Bilic.

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