Somehow, someway, West Ham United came back from the worst imaginable start they could have dreamed of Saturday afternoon to level 2-2 at Southampton, only to then concede a late penalty and suffer a typical devastating West Ham loss, falling 3-2 with a Charlie Austin winning penalty deciding it.
It was all going to hell for West Ham in the first 50 minutes inside St. Mary’s Stadium. Number one centerback Winston Reid was stretched off before the match even began, and then the Hammers fell behind 2-0 while being reduced to 10 men.
The Saints struck first, when Manolo Gabbiadini cleverly got inbetween Angelo Ogbonna and Jose Fonte and finished low past Joe Hart in the 11th minute. The classy Italian was set up by a perfectly weighted assist from Nathan Redmond.
Things would go from miserable to downright comically sad for the Hammers, as Marko Arnautovic received a deserved red card for his idiotic, angry elbow at Jack Stephens in the 33rd minute. It was then inevitable for Slaven Bilic to see Fonte give up a penalty for grabbing Steven Davis by the shoulder in the Hammers’ box. Dusan Tadic struck his penalty down the middle, where Hart did get his foot on it but to not avail. A 2-0 Southampton lead was a reality and pure misery for Bilic and company.
Just when it would seem like one of the worst days in West Ham history would occur, the Hammers amazingly got back into the match. A great turn and left footed shot by Michail Antonio was saved by Fraser Forster, only for Javier Chicharito Hernandez to do what he does best and finish the rebound in the final stages of the opening 45.
And with a nervous Saints squad wondering why they hadn’t wrapped the game up down 10 men, the Hammers miraculously leveled the contest in the 74th minute. A great delivery from Aaron Cresswell produced a towering header from Diafra Sakho that was saved by Forster and hit the top of the bar, only for Hernandez to make it another poacher’s brace for himself.
It seemed it was meant to be for the Hammers to have a shocking, heartfelt comeback, only to have utter heartbreak when Pablo Zabaleta was called for a push in the box on Maya Yoshida in stoppage time. Up stepped Austin to convert his fifth straight penalty dating back to last season, sliding it to the left as Hart went to his right to give the Saints a wild victory, after blowing a 2-0 lead with a man advantage.
The Hammers will hope they can recover from an already emotionally draining start to the season, when they are at newly promoted Newcastle next week.