Football: Ostenstad delight

Southampton 3 Ostenstad 54, Davies 65, Dodd 68 West Ham United 0 Attendance:15,212
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The Independent Online
In The end, the decisive factor may have been that Southampton's need for points was far more pressing than their visitors',but it is a long time since West Ham played such meek lambs to the slaughter. They collapsed in the second half once Egil Ostenstad had broken the deadlock seven minutes after the re-start.

Against expectations, it was the Norwegian striker who proved to be the catalyst and not Matt Le Tissier, who in his second match of the season was a wan figure for most of the 90 minutes.

In a first half virtually bereft of constructive football or enjoyable skills, the only real threat on either goal was when Kevin Davies headed Carlton Palmer's cross down past Ludek Miklosko only to see the ball bounce up on to the crossbar. Then Le Tissier's free-kick found Ken Monkou but, as with John Hartson's connection with Tim Breacker's cross at the other end, the final header was well off target.

When Ostenstad replaced Michael Evans seven minutes into the second half, Saints were transformed. Within minutes he was pouncing on the chance proffered in the 55th minute when Miklosko spilled a Davies header into his path and Southampton were ahead.

There were few signs that the earth had opened beneath the Hammers, but 10 minutes later Davies moved on to a Le Tissier pass. Ian Pearce got in his tackle but the ball broke in the attacker's favour and Davies's diagonal drive beat Miklosko. Five minutes later the confidence now seeping into Southampton's play was underlined by Jason Dodd taking pot luck with a 35-yard right-foot volley that flew past Miklosko for the third.

Deprived of Stan Lazaridis, and with Andy Impey playing surprisingly deep, West Ham had lacked width. The consequence was that John Hartson was too often outnumbered while Eyal Berkovitch, the jeers of the fans who had worshiped him in Saints' colours last season ringing in his ears, did not have a fruitful afternoon. Rio Ferdinand, again impressive, was the only cool head as West Ham crumbled in that last half-hour. Saints still have an immense uphill struggle and the Hammers - surprise, surprise - may once again have been flattering to deceive.

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