Ilan eases Hammers drop fears
Ilan scored another vital goal to give struggling West Ham a hard-fought 1-0 win against Sunderland.
By Jonathan Witty
Last Updated: 10/04/10 10:57pm
Ilan scored his second vital goal within a week to give relegation-threatened West Ham a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Sunderland at Upton Park.
Ilan struck six minutes into the second period to give the Hammers their first Premier League win since February and ease the pressure on under-fire manager Gianfranco Zola.
After notching a late equaliser against Everton last week, the former St Etienne player gave his side a survival lifeline by sliding home Carlton Cole's header.
The introduction of Kenwyne Jones nearly galvanised Sunderland in the second period, but Darren Bent squandered their best chance of getting back into the game.
Substitute Guillermo Franco thought he had doubled the Hammers' advantage in stoppage time, but his goal was ruled out for handball.
The result means Portsmouth's relegation to the Championship is confirmed and lifts West Ham four points clear of the drop zone.
For 10 cagey minutes neither team was able to create an opening, with the game played almost exclusively in the middle third.
But it was the Black Cats who settled first as Steed Malbranque grew increasingly influential on the left of midfield.
Malbranque engineered the first threatening attack of the game as he exchanged passes with Kieran Richardson to earn Sunderland a corner - and they should have taken the lead.
West Ham defender Manuel da Costa failed to deal with Malbranque's inswinging delivery but Campbell could not latch onto the loose ball as it ran across the six yard box and the Hammers survived.
West Ham were struggling to keep Bent under control and the Sunderland striker latched onto a long ball over the top but his attempted lob over Robert Green landed on the roof of the net.
Behrami had West Ham's first shot on goal, forcing Gordon into a low block and Richardson was on hand to clear his lines as Junior Stanislas loked to pounce on the rebound.
Sunderland then received two major let-offs in the space of five minutes and were fortunate to reach half-time on level terms and with 11 men still on the field.
Firstly, Craig Gordon was penalised for handling the ball outside of his area but he received only a yellow card and West Ham made a hash of the free-kick.
Sunderland then had Paulo da Silva to thank for a brilliant interception inside his own box, stealing the ball from Ilan's toes after he had been picked out by Cole.
But if Gordon had been fortunate with the hand-ball, he was the luckiest man inside Upton Park after dragging Cole to the ground inside his box only to be saved by the whistle of referee Mike Jones. Gordon had panicked after dropping a high ball while under pressure from Cole but referee Jones had already decided to penalise the West Ham striker for a foul.
When Meyler was judged to have fouled Ilan on half-way, referee Jones called Sunderland captain Michael Turner over to warn him about the Black Cats' discipline.
West Ham exacted the perfect punishment. Da Costa launched the free-kick towards Cole and Ilan latched onto the knock-down to score his second goal in two games.
The explosion of noise around Upton Park was as much relief as celebration.
Sunderland responded calmly, dominating possession and passing the ball around to stretch West Ham and test their patience but Cattermole's drive whistled just wide of Green's right-hand post.
Sunderland sent on Jones for Meyler and he made an immediate impact with a driving run from midfield before sliding the ball towards bent on the edge of the box.
The Sunderland striker took a perfect first touch to tee up the shot but he slipped on the Upton Park turf and Green was able to scramble out of goal and smother the ball.
There was drama right to the death. In the fourth minute of added time, Franco had the ball in the net and wheeled away to celebrate. But the Mexican was judged to have controlled the ball with his left hand and the goal was disallowed.
|West Ham United||Team Statistics||Sunderland|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|8||Shots off Target||4|