At 2-0 to the good and with an 11-v-10 advantage, Southampton appeared to be well on its way to a first home win since April 5.
The Saints, in fact, hadn’t even scored a goal since that evening four-and-a-half months ago until Manolo Gabbiadini broke the drought in the 11th minute of Saturday’s match against West Ham. Dusan Tadic doubled Southampton’s lead from the penalty spot later in the half. In between, a Marko Arnautovic moment of madness had reduced the visitors to 10 men. Southampton was cruising.
Then all hell broke loose.
There was no one single moment to point to when the tide of the game turned. No one moment when Southampton lost control. But just before halftime, Javier Hernandez snuck into space at the far post and pounced an a rebound:
West Ham retained a foothold in the game after the break – surprising given the circumstances and given Southampton’s superiority even before the red card – and drew level in the 74th minute. Chicharito again floated into space in the box and stabbed home a rebound:
The scenes in the away end told the story. West Ham was buoyant. St. Mary’s was stunned. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Isn’t supposed to happen. Not when two goals up. Not when a man up. And certainly not with both advantages.
Southampton stalled over the final 15 minutes as it went in search of a winner. Speculative shots from 25-plus yards out were the last resort, and were unsuccessful.
But in stoppage time, a wild afternoon came full circle, back to a refereeing decision against West Ham, and back to the penalty spot. Referee Lee Mason spotted Pablo Zabaleta’s forearm to the back of Maya Yoshida, and Charlie Austin won the game for the hosts:
Slaven Bilic raised his palms in exasperation. Arnautovic’s stupidity aside, West Ham probably deserved something from the game. They didn’t get anything.
Instead, Southampton somehow got three points. The Saints have now picked up four points from a possible six, but in a rather roundabout manner. A dominant performance last weekend against Swansea delivered only one. A shaky afternoon this Saturday yielded three. In the end, new manager Mauricio Pellegrino will probably take it.