West Ham United 1-0 Sunderland: Michail Antonio strike sees off Black Cats
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 14/03/16 10:34am
West Ham United continued their charge for European football with a 1-0 home win over struggling Sunderland on Saturday.
Michail Antonio scored the winner on the half-hour mark after an error by Sunderland left-back Patrick Van Aanholt.
And the three points sees Slaven Bilic's side temporarily move up to fifth in the Premier League ahead of the weekend's other matches, while Sunderland remain deep in trouble in 19th, a point from safety.
The Hammers made three changes from the team that beat Blackburn Rovers 5-1 in the FA Cup last weekend, with Sam Byram, Adrian and Manuel Lanzini coming in for Darren Randolph, Pedro Obiang and Victor Moses.
Meanwhile, Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce - on his first return to Upton Park since leaving the club last summer - named an unchanged line-up from the 2-1 win against Manchester United a fortnight ago.
And the visitors appeared to have been boosted by that impressive result in the early stages at Upton Park as they sought to end a poor run of just two wins in their last 15 away league games.
It did not take West Ham long to gain a foothold in the match, with captain Mark Noble inches away from opening the scoring after 20 minutes with a 25-yard shot.
However, despite striking his effort sweetly, Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone somehow managed to divert the ball on to the crossbar to deny the midfielder another eye-catching goal after his long-range equaliser at Norwich City last time out.
Three minutes later and the Black Cats also struck the woodwork when recent new signing Wahbi Khazri caught Adrian out with a free-kick from the right-hand edge of the area, only for the ball to hit the top of the Spaniard's bar.
But it was not long before the hosts opened the scoring, albeit with some help from Van Aanholt who instead of clearing Byram's hopeful ball over the top, was caught in possession by Antonio.
The winger still had a lot of work to do, however, being in a tight spot by the right-hand corner flag, only to thread an inch-perfect shot into the far corner of the net for his fifth goal for the club, all since late December.
Antonio almost doubled West Ham's lead before half-time after a neat turn and volley on the edge of the box which forced Mannone into a smart stop at his near post.
But if the Black Cats struggled to make much of an impact in the first half, they were far more threatening after the break as they went in search of a crucial equaliser, with Jermain Defoe a constant menace against his old team.
Just two minutes into the second period the striker - booed whenever he touched the ball by the home fans - almost took advantage of a mistake at the back by defender James Collins, only to pull his shot just past the post.
Sunderland created an even better opening 16 minutes from time after a nice move down the right involving Jan Kirchhoff and DeAndre Yedlin, only for Adrian's right boot to keep out Jack Rodwell's close-range shot, with the substitute then handling the ball before poking the rebound home.
As the game got more and more stretched in the final quarter of an hour, chances came and went for both sides.
West Ham substitute Andy Carroll volleyed against the bar after being set up by Byram's neat header back across the six-yard box, before the young right-back deflected Rodwell's goalbound effort over the bar for a corner.
However, despite another important save from Adrian to thwart Dame N'Doye with 10 minutes to go, West Ham held on to extend their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 11 matches, their best sequence in 18 years.
West Ham United: Adrian (8), Byram (6), Ogbonna (6), Collins (6), Cresswell (7), Noble (8), Kouyate (7), Antonio (9), Payet (8), Lanzini (7), Emenike (6)
Used subs: Carroll (6), Obiang (6), Moses (7)
Sunderland: Mannone (8), Yedlin (7), Kone (6), O'Shea (7), Van Aanholt (6), Kirchhoff (7), N'Doye (6), Cattermole (6), M'Vila (6), Khazri (7), Defoe (7)
Used subs: Rodwell (7)
Man of the match: Michail Antonio