Belfast Telegraph

Steven Davis left out by Southampton as Rangers switch moves closer

Southampton 1 West Ham 2

Northern Ireland's Steven Davis is closing in on his Rangers return.
Northern Ireland's Steven Davis is closing in on his Rangers return.
Double joy: Felipe Anderson netted a brace against Saints

By Carl Markham

Steven Davis was left out of the Southampton squad last night as rumours over a January return to Rangers continue.

Felipe Anderson scored twice in six minutes as West Ham came from behind to beat Southampton at St Mary's Stadium and move up to ninth in the Premier League table.

Northern Ireland midfielder Davis has been heavily linked with a move back to Ibrox after losing his place in the Saints team.

Davis left Rangers in 2012 and has spent the last six years at St Mary's.

During his time in Glasgow, he won three league titles and reached the Uefa Cup final.

Brazil playmaker Anderson's quick-fire double cancelled out Nathan Redmond's scrambled goalmouth finish as the Hammers battled hard for victory.

If Anderson's angled drive for his first looked tidy, his imperious match-winning finish to cap a two-pass counter-attack blitz proved very easy on the eye.

The accomplished 25-year-old now has eight goals and two assists for the Premier League season: amid the post-Christmas malaise, his was a performance of unrivalled poise and precision.

Ralph Hasenhuttl tasted defeat for the first time as Southampton manager, his manful Saints unable to string together three league wins.

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini will have been delighted to tiptoe home with all three points, especially given his injury-hit squad was so threadbare he could only fill six of the seven substitute berths.

The Hammers' Republic of Ireland international Declan Rice said: "You could see in the first half we were getting chances, getting the ball out wide. The manager said to keep going and Felipe has popped up with two superb goals.

"The first half of the season is out of the way. We are setting ourselves up for a good second half."

Asked about Anderson, Aaron Cresswell added: "He's been fantastic and hopefully that continues. It was a tough start, losing the first four games, but he's been our in-form man and is our top goalscorer."

For Pellegrini's side to be in the top half of the table at the halfway point of the season is a remarkable achievement, considering they lost their opening four league matches and have been ravaged by injuries.

Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez, Andriy Yarmolenko and Ryan Fredericks are all long-term absentees, with Jack Wilshere, Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez, Fabian Balbuena and Pablo Zabaleta also unavailable.

• Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has said the club will trigger an extension clause in Toby Alderweireld's contract.

The Belgium defender will now be contracted to Spurs until the summer of 2020, having been due to be a free agent at the end of the season.

However, by taking up the year's option it also activates a £25m release clause which runs from the start of the 2019 summer transfer window to the last two weeks.

It comes several weeks after Spurs also triggered an option on Alderweireld's Belgium team-mate Jan Vertonghen's contract.

Pochettino said: "Yes, for sure. It is the same situation as Jan."

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