West Ham clinched sixth place in the Premier League – and a spot in next season’s Europa League group stage – after comfortably beating Southampton in front of 10,000 supporters at London Stadium.
David Moyes’ side needed only a draw to guarantee a top-six finish, but Pablo Fornals’ first-half brace ensured the Hammers end a superb campaign on 65 points – their highest tally in the top flight.
Fornals opened the scoring against the run of play, firing into an empty net after Alex McCarthy had steered Jarrod Bowen’s goal-bound effort into his path on the edge of the six-yard area.
The 25-year-old doubled his tally three minutes later, latching on to Vladimir Coufal’s low cross and finding the net via a slight deflection off Saints defender Jannik Vestergaard.
Declan Rice completed the scoring late on with a composed finish from Fornals’ clipped pass.
Southampton finish the campaign in 15th after suffering their 19th league defeat of the season.
European qualification caps a remarkable year for West Ham and their manager Moyes.
Ten months on from narrowly staving off relegation, the Scotsman has guided the Hammers to their highest top-flight finish in 22 years, only missing out on a place in the top four by three points.
Moyes is reportedly close to agreeing a new three-year contract at the club, but will the 58-year-old be able to keep hold of his prized assets at London Stadium?
England midfielder Rice is likely to attract attention from other clubs, while the future of Jesse Lingard – a revelation since his loan move from Manchester United in January – remains up in the air.
Czech Republic duo Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek may also be subject to offers after tremendous campaigns.
It was Fornals who set West Ham on their way against Saints, registering his first double for the club since joining from Villarreal in 2019.
Lukasz Fabianski was forced into action on a number of occasions, thwarting Kyle Walker-Peters in the first half before producing a fine stop to deny Jan Bednarek in the second, but Rice put the result beyond doubt late on when he broke clear down the left and drilled a low shot beyond McCarthy in the Southampton goal.
Saints end season with a whimper
This was a limp end to a disappointing season for Southampton, who have collected fewer points in 2021 than any other Premier League club apart from relegated Fulham.
They briefly topped the table in early November but injuries eventually took their toll on a small Saints squad, which at one stage featured no fewer than 10 absentees.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has been open in his desire to bolster his options in the summer, but the Austrian manager’s biggest test may be persuading star striker Danny Ings to stay at St Mary’s.
The former RB Leipzig coach has admitted Saints are a “different side” with Ings, who has recently been linked with a move to Manchester United.
It was the 28-year-old’s deft flick which almost led to an early Southampton breakthrough, but Takumi Minamino’s effort trickled inches wide of Fabianski’s far post.
West Ham’s goalkeeper had to be at full stretch to deny Bednarek in the second half but there was little prospect of a Saints recovery once Fornals’ quick-fire double had given the Hammers a two-goal cushion.
“The way we conceded today was a mirror of what we’ve seen this season,” Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports afterwards. “It’s very frustrating.
“We need a reality check of what we really can achieve. We don’t deserve any more.”
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