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Ralph Hasenhuttl not worried about doubters as squad rotation pays off

Southampton v West Ham United – Emirates FA Cup – Fifth Round – St Mary’s Stadium
(Image credit: Adam Davy)

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl insists he does not need to justify himself to social media doubters after executing a perfect gameplan to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Hasenhuttl’s decision to make nine changes for Wednesday’s fifth-round tie with West Ham raised plenty of eyebrows, particularly among online sceptics.

But the Austrian’s makeshift selection was vindicated as Saints progressed courtesy of a deserved 3-1 success over their Premier League rivals.

Half-time substitute Armando Broja changed the game in the hosts’ favour, winning a penalty which was converted by James Ward-Prowse and then completing the scoring late on after Michail Antonio briefly cancelled out Romain Perraud’s first-half rocket.

Asked about the initial negativity surrounding his substantial squad rotation, Hasenhuttl said: “I don’t need to be on social media because my job is to be a manager and to look what my guys are offering.

“A few guys who started today brought us to this game; they were responsible that we had this game.

“It’s on me to not only speak about trust but to show trust. And I knew that I have five subs.

“The longer the game goes, you can make two subs in the half-time and another three in the second and then you bring a few threats on the pitch.

“I spoke with David Moyes after the game and he said that this was the difference today because he couldn’t bring on the fresh, good players and they decided the game.

“We are in the draw. This was the goal for tonight.”

French full-back Perraud stylishly set Southampton on course for victory with his first goal for the club, lashing home a swerving strike from more than 25 yards.

One-time Saints loanee Antonio briefly levelled for the Hammers by poking home from a corner but Ward-Prowse’s cool penalty – awarded following VAR intervention after Craig Dawson upended Broja – quickly restored the advantage.

Top scorer Broja guaranteed the south-coast club a place in the last eight of the competition for the third time in five seasons by rolling home the ninth goal of his fruitful loan switch from Chelsea deep into added time.

Speaking of Perraud’s stunning opener, which came slightly against the run of play, Hasenhuttl said: “What a goal!

“The ball is a little bit lighter in the cup, so it is fantastic to shoot from outside (the box).

“I am very happy for him; he’s made fantastic progress since he’s been here. He developed his game massively and I’m very happy he is here.”

High-flying West Ham faded after a bright start and now have the remainder of the campaign to focus on chasing Europa League glory and Champions League qualification.

A forgettable evening for the visitors was compounded by bloodied midfielder Tomas Soucek being forced off by a head injury early in the second half after being caught by the arm of Ibrahima Diallo.

Hammers boss Moyes rued a shortage of cutting edge and the defensive errors which led to Saints’ penalty.

“I thought we had opportunities long before they scored the goal to be in front but we lacked quality in the final third,” he said.

“I thought our build-up play and our play in the main was OK.

“We had chances to be in front and then went behind to a worldie of a goal. I did not see that coming and it put us on the back foot a little bit.

“At one each, it looked like there was only going to be one team winning it. But we made a terrible mistake defensively which gave them a chance to get back in front.

“Our finishing and final pass was so poor, so poor.”

Asked for an update on Soucek, he replied: “They tell me it is a nasty wound and he has had some stitches but I’ve not had a chance to speak to the medical team yet.”

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