West Ham finish in style to make sure of Europa League action next season

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West Ham Finish In Style To Make Sure Of Europa League Action Next Season
West Ham United v Southampton – Premier League – London Stadium, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Andy Sims, PA

West Ham 3 - 0 Southampton

West Ham ended a record-breaking season with a 3-0 win over Southampton and a place in the Europa League.

David Moyes’ side, who were battling relegation last year, secured sixth place and their best Premier League points tally of 65.

Two goals from Pablo Fornals and a third from Declan Rice made it a club record 19th Premier League win of the season, and a first top-six finish this century.

A maiden appearance in the group stages of the Europa League now beckons for a side tipped to struggle again at the start of the 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 genuine career renaissance.

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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.

Perhaps understandably they had a couple of jittery moments in the early stages, not least when 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 Alex 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.

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 Vladimir Coufal.

After the break Fabianski palmed an angled Minamino shot over the crossbar and, from the corner, acrobatically tipped away Jan Bednarek’s header.

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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, a 15th defeat from their last 21 matches and 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 get the European party started.

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