Sergei Rebrov, who wore an orange wristband to support the "quiet revolution" in his Ukrainian homeland, played a major part in overthrowing Sunderland's unbeaten home record so preventing them from joining Ipswich at the top of the table.
Rebrov's unpleasant tackle in the centre circle just before the break sparked an incendiary chain of events which ended with Sunderland's Steven Caldwell being dismissed. Following Rebrov's lunge, which chopped down Stephen Wright, the ball spilled through a maul of outraged players to Luke Chadwick. In a game with a surprisingly malevolent undertone, Chadwick and Caldwell were well acquainted and the former Newcastle defender appeared to attempt to rake the ball from the arms of the fallen former Manchester United player.
Rebrov was booked for his foul; Caldwell dismissed for his stupidity. A man down, Sunderland were a goal down 15 minutes later and the game was gone. Substitute Teddy Sheringham, making his first appearance in nine games, killed it off in the final seconds by stroking West Ham's second into an empty net.
"The sending-off affected the course of the game," said the Sunderland manager, Mick McCarthy. "I have seen it. I still don't think he stamped on him although he had tried to get the ball with his foot. I have just been told the referee went into the West Ham dressing-room before the game to get a book signed by Sheringham. I am not saying it had any bearing on any decisions, but I think that is beneath contempt."
The gods of television decreed that Sunderland's supporters could watch Newcastle being chewed up by Chelsea before taking their seats, but it was West Ham who bit first. Chadwick was afforded so much space in midfield that Sunderland should have been soundly punished but instead Carl Fletcher hit the post with a venomous drive.
Bellowed on by McCarthy - easily the loudest of the 30,000 voices in the stadium - Sunderland's youngsters found their feet even though they were without the suspended Julio Arca, their one genuine Premiership performer. Dean Whitehead exhibited a brave range of passing, Darren Carter made some rampaging midfield runs and Stephen Elliott looked a threat with a deft touch.
After the break, West Ham pitched their tents in Sunderland's territory. On the hour, with Sheringham stripping off in readiness to act as their field marshal, Danny Collins - the stand-in left back, due to Arca's absence, now standing in at centre-back due to Caldwell's disappearance - lost the ball to Fletcher. He fed Chadwick who rolled the ball for the unmarked Marlon Harewood to steer into the net.
In the remaining half an hour West Ham came at Sunderland with a three-man attack - Sheringham and Bobby Zamora joining Harewood. It wasn't until the 90th minute the game was sealed by Sheringham. "I thought we came with good attitude and put them under immense pressure and had some great chances in that first half," said the West Ham manager, Alan Pardew. "The only disappointing point for us was the last 20 minutes when we didn't kill the game off."
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