Sunderland 2-2 West Ham: Dimitri Payet earns point amid uncertainty over Dick Advocaat's future
By Stephen Turner
Last Updated: 03/10/15 8:55pm
Sunderland blew a two-goal lead as they drew 2-2 with West Ham in what could be Dick Advocaat's final game in charge.
Uncertainty over the manager's future did not prevent the home side taking a 2-0 lead, with excellent goals from Steven Fletcher (10) and Jeremain Lens (22) scant reward for their early verve.
Had Fabio Borini then taken a one-on-one chance a first Premier League win of the season would surely have been in the bag, but Carl Jenkinson halved the deficit right on half-time and Dimitri Payet equalised (60) two minutes after Lens was shown a red card.
Amid the drama of a sending-off, a surrendered lead and a manager supposedly on the brink, it should not be overlooked that Sunderland became the first team this season to deny West Ham an away win.
In doing so they prevented Slaven Bilic breaking new ground as the first Hammers boss in the Premier League era to win four straight on the road, but the Croat will know his side could easily have made the trip back south with nothing at all.
If the rumours about Advocaat swirling around Wearside were designed to bring a response from his players, then it worked big-time as their early ploy of sitting off the visitors gave way to an attacking first-half performance of real menace.
Fletcher's opener was the catalyst; the Scot peeling off to the penalty spot to sweep in Yann M'Vila's training-ground free-kick as John O'Shea made mischief with West Ham's muddled markers.
Better, implausibly, was to come, with Payet's poor pass forcing a rushed clearance from Winston Reid and again M'Vila capitalised, sliding through Lens for a beautiful first-time chip which beat Adrian and found the net via the crossbar.
The goalkeeper's one-handed stop kept out O'Shea's header, but he was committed minutes later as Fletcher's flick sent Borini in on goal. The Italian picked his spot: sadly for Sunderland it was a foot outside the post.
Still they should have gone in with a two-goal lead, but three defenders failed to prevent Victor Moses delivering a left-wing cross, and Jenkinson careered up from right-back to fire a first West Ham goal.
The nerves among the home fans were obvious, and with good reason: referee Neil Swarbrick was officious all afternoon in dishing out eight yellow cards, but Lens' hack at Reid more than merited the second yellow that came his way.
And any hope of a rearguard action went by the wayside within a couple of minutes as Costel Pantilimon spilled Manuel Lanzini's shot straight to a grateful Payet, who gobbled up a fourth Premier League goal.
A home defeat seemed almost inevitable at that point, but Sunderland regrouped admirably and held out comfortably but for one Lanzini shot that missed by a whisker.
Soccer Saturday verdict - Matt Le Tissier
"For the first time this season, I thought Sunderland could stay in the Premier League. They got the early goal which gave them a great boost of confidence. The turning point came when Borini had the chance to put Sunderland 3-0 up. It was inches wide and it should have been game over.
"West Ham got a goal before half-time and the momentum swung when Lens was sent off for Sunderland. Pantilimon was at fault for the second goal, but Sunderland showed a lot of character to hold on for the point."
Sunderland: Pantilimon (4), Yedlin (6), Coates (7), O'Shea (7), Jones (7), Cattermole (7), M'Vila (7), Toivonen (8), Lens (6), Borini (7), Fletcher (7).
Subs used: Larsson (n/a), Rodwell (n/a), Gomez (n/a)
West Ham: Adrian (7), Jenkinson (7), Tomkins (6), Reid (7), Cresswell (6), Kouyate (6), Noble (6), Payet (7), Lanzini (7), Moses (6), Sakho (6)
Subs used: Jelavic (5), Collins (6), Zarate (6)
Man of the match: Ola Toivonen (Sunderland)