Fornals fires West Ham into Europa League with win over Southampton
Pablo Fornals scored a brace and set up another goal as West Ham secured Europa League qualification with a 3-0 win over Southampton.
It has been a remarkable campaign from West Ham, who have gone from relegation candidates last season to European challengers this term. They got the reward they deserved by finishing sixth with their best ever Premier League points tally of 65.
Fornals gave West Ham the lead after half an hour, finishing after Alex McCarthy parried the ball into his path. Three minutes later he had the ball in the back of the net again, diverting home a cross from Vladimir Coufal.
They had chances to increase the margin of victory, with Tomas Soucek flicking a header wide from one of their bigger chances.
But it didn’t matter, as Fornals’ goals had already set them well on their way to victory. And they did get a third when Declan Rice put the icing on the cake after being set up by none other than Fornals.
The Hammers can now look forward to a well-deserved European adventure next season.
Whether Moyes can build a squad capable of the gruelling Thursday-night-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 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.
West Ham finish with a win
Perhaps understandably they had a couple of jittery moments in the early stages. For example, a Southampton counter-attack saw Danny Ings and Stuart Armstrong combine to send Takumi Minamino through on goal.
The on-loan Liverpool winger lifted the ball over the advancing Lukasz Fabianski but it floated just wide of the far post.
West Ham almost profited from McCarthy dropping a corner onto the shoulder of Kyle Walker-Peters, forcing Mohammed Salisu to hook the ball off the goal-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.
A huge goal for the Hammers – McCarthy can only palm it away into a dangerous area and there is Fornals to smash home.
Watch #WHUSOU live now on Sky One pic.twitter.com/qjTArIFmKv
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 23, 2021
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 Coufal.
After the break Fabianski palmed an angled Minamino shot over the crossbar. Then, from the corner, he 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. This was a 15th defeat from their last 21 matches; it gave them an unwanted club record of most goals conceded in a single Premier League campaign.
That tally reached 69 when 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 start the European party.
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