West Ham Home Won 3 – 2
Just a week into the new season and the club is under new ownership, or new majority ownership at least. Some sources have been estimating Ms. Liebherr’s wealth at a low sounding £300m, but even at a more likely $3.3bn reported elsewhere, it’s not the mega-bucks needed to compete at the top echelon of the Premier League – trouble is, Mr. Gao and his generous family don’t possess them either. Of course we’re talking obscene amounts for individuals, and if anyone wants to ease their conscience by frittering it all away on our little club, who are the fans to object?
Meanwhile there was game two to consider, against suddenly big spending West Ham who have found a cheap way of leasing the taxpayers’ asset of the former Olympic Stadium – but now they had to switch the Saints fixture due to athletics, somehow with no apparent footballing sanction. The home team by default fielded their most expensive buy, Lemina, for the first time and he looked to add a bit of pace to the midfield, but sadly it was last year’s most improved player, Ward-Prowse, who made way. I suppose no-one was going to care so much when Gabbiadini struck from Redmond’s pass in the 12th minute to end his personal goal drought, and that of the team, at St. Mary’s at least. Things then began to get even better thanks to interventions by referee Mason that the Hammers can have little complaint about. Firstly Arnautović (£25m!) was dismissed for a cheap shot elbow on Stephens and wisely headed straight down the tunnel, kicking a pail on the way but without waiting to explain himself to Slaven Bilić. The ten men went two down on 37 minutes when Fonte, not for the first time, committed an indiscretion in the Northam End penalty box, and Tadić just about beat Hart from the spot. It all pointed to a stress free half time break but that didn’t happen thanks to some ordinary tackling that allowed another ex-Saint, Antonio, time to shoot, and when Forster pushed out the shot, Hernandez (acquired for the same sort of fee as Lemina) tapped his side back into the match. A more confident forward line than Southampton’s might have made the man advantage count after the break, but after Gabbiadini had clipped the bar from distance, West Ham levelled things on 74 minutes. Again it was Hernandez poaching after a save from Forster, but this time one that would otherwise have been long remembered as the keeper performed miracles to prevent a Yoshida own goal. Ward-Prowse was already on for Lemina and now Austin and Long came on to try for the win: and win we did, thanks again to Mr. Mason who had turned down a possible penalty for the Hammers before awarding one to Saints in added time for a push on Yoshida. With so many doubtful spot kickers around our team, Austin made fans feel a lot safer by making sure he grabbed the ball first, and duly converted to complete an enjoyable, if not entirely convincing, victory by the odd goal in five.
LSSC Man of the Match: Maya Yoshida for some solid tackles as well as winning that late penalty. I thought it was his header, not Sakho’s, that Forster saved in the build up to West Ham’s equaliser, and an o.g. would probably have had me looking elsewhere.