LONDON (Reuters) - A long-awaited goal by close-season signing Sebastien Haller earned West Ham United a crucial 1-0 win in a Premier League basement battle at Southampton to ease the pressure on manager Manuel Pellegrini on Saturday.
Haller’s well-taken goal in the 37th minute ended a 636-minute lean spell for the Frenchman and it proved enough for the Hammers to claim only their second league win since September and push them up to 15th, four points above the drop zone.
Southampton were devoid of inspiration during a dreadful first half for the hosts and remain in the relegation places, third from bottom.
West Ham had lost five of their last six games to drop into the relegation battle but striker Haller’s first goal since Oct. 5 earned them some breathing space.
“Both teams had little confidence and that showed,” Haller, who impressed initially after arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt for 45 million pounds ($57.74 million), said. “It was so important that we got the three points today.
“It was a massive win. It’s been a while since I scored, it was a really important one. I don’t score a lot with my left foot.”
West Ham were much sharper in the first half and Declan Rice headed the ball into the net after two minutes only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
They deservedly took the lead in the 37th-minute when Robert Snodgrass’s chip was knocked down by Pablo Fornals to Haller who swept the bouncing ball home via the post.
The visitors thought they made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute when the industrious Michail Antonio powered on to a Fornals flick to fire home but referee Martin Atkinson disallowed the goal for handball against Antonio after consulting VAR.
“I think I’m going to cut my hands off,” Antonio told Sky Sports. “It is like they are magnets or something.”
The let-off galvanised Southampton. Danny Ings rattled a shot against the underside of the crossbar in the 70th minute, then hit the post with another effort, although the flag was already raised.
Ings then slammed home a superb effort from 25 metres into the top corner but the goal was ruled out for an infringement.
Jack Stephens sliced a good chance horribly wide as Southampton pressed in vain. They remain third from bottom with 15 points from 17 games, behind Aston Villa on goal difference.
“To stay in the league we need to win these home wins against these type of opponents,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said. “I saw a team fighting until the end and fighting to turn the tables but it was not possible for us.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris