SAINTS remain in the Premier League's bottom three after a hugely disappointing defat at home to fellow strugglers West Ham United.

A stunning 38th-minute goal from Sebastien Haller proved the difference between the sides as Saints failed to repeat their recent home wins against Watford and Norwich City.

With Aston Villa losing at Sheffield United, this was a missed opportunity for Saints, who travel to Villa Park next week.

Ralph Hasenhuttl fielded the same XI for the third match in a row, but the first-half performance did not match those of recent weeks.

West Ham dominated from the first whistle.

They had a second-minute goal disallowed for offside by VAR and Saints were given another let-off when Michail Antonio crossed from the right and Pablo Fornals’ shot was deflected behind by Cedric.

Shane Long's header from Hojbjerg’s left-flank cross, which was clawed away by David Martin, was Saints’ only effort on target during the first half.

They were fortunate not to trail by more at half-time.

Ryan Bertrand lost possession to Angelo Ogbonna and the ensuing cross from Aaron Cresswell resulted in a penalty appeal after Haller and Antonio went down under pressure from Bertrand and Bednarek.

It was turned down by VAR, but West Ham would soon have the lead, through Haller's fifith goal of the season.

It completed a wonderful move from the visitors.

Ryan Fredericks’ cross from the right, following Antonio’s pass, was headed back by Fornals and Haller half-volleyed it into the far corner with his left foot.

It was no more than West Ham deserved.

Hojbjerg’s header over the bar from Cedric’s inswinging cross summed up Saints’ half.

The below-par Nathan Redmond was taken off at half-time and replaced by Oriol Romeu as Hasenhuttl switched shape to a 4-1-3-2, with the substitute providing more protection to the back four.

But West Ham continued to create chances as Saints struggled against the pace and power of Antonio in particular.

A slip at the start of the second half let in Fornals, whose rasping drive was brilliantly turned over the bar by a flying Alex McCarthy.

The power of Antonio was often too much for the home side. He put the ball in the net after charging past Jan Bednarek, only for VAR to rule out the goal for a handball by the former Saints loanee.

Danny Ings burst into life and won a corner that was punched clear before Moussa Djenepo fired narrowly over from 25 yards.

Then, with 20 minutes left, Ings controlled Djenepo’s cross from the left and in the same movement arrowed a volley against the bar.

Long should have done better than put the rebound in the sidenetting.

Ings soon hit the post while being flagged for offside but Saints were at least showing more intent.

When Ings finally had the ball in the net with a stunning 30-yard strike, it was ruled out for a foul on Fredericks by Djenepo.

Another top-class save by McCarthy kept Saints in the game but they were again fortunate when sub Andriy Yarmolneko shot over.

Saints had late chances to rescue a point. Hojbjerg’s cross was sidefooted well wide by Stephens and the captain himself missed the target with a similar effort in the 87th minute.

In the final minute of normal time James Ward-Prowse had a direct free kick in a similar position to his Watford stunner, but this time it went straight at the goalkeeper.

SAINTS: McCarthy, Cedric (Adams 88), Bednarek, Stephens, Bertrand, Hojbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Redmond (Romeu 45), Djenepo, Long (Armstrong 84), Ings.
Booked: Hojbjerg.

WEST HAM: Martin, Fredericks, Ogbonna Balbuena, Cresswell, Snodgrass (Yarmolenko 72), Noble, Rice, Fornals, Haller (Sanchez 79), Antonio.
Booked: Snodgrass, Martin, Fredericks.