It probably said much about how tepid this 1-0 West Ham United victory was that, after all the debate about Sam Allardyce’s time as manager at the club, the reception for the Sunderland manager was fairly muted too. And that despite the worrying situation in which this result leaves his side.
“Jermain Defoe got more stick than me,” Allardyce laughed, as he otherwise spoke warmly of the Boleyn Ground and his old club, on what was his last working trip to the stadium.
The hope is that the actual last matches there will be livelier occasions than this, even if the win from Michail Antonio’s 30th-minute strike did reflect West Ham’s progress and move them closer to the Champions League places. They have also already recorded their highest points tally in the Premier League era.
Slaven Bilic was naturally pleased with that, but couldn’t deny something was off about the whole match.
“We are not flat, but we are not in the red zone,” the West Ham manager said. “It was very sleepy. Even the crowd. Maybe it’s the early kick-off.”
Whatever about the red zone, it keeps Sunderland in the drop zone, and increases the pressure on Allardyce, who admitted he is getting worried, all the more so because he felt this was a good performance his team could not make the most of.
“It is a huge disappointment,” he said. “It’s a real danger for us in our fight against relegation. We’re kicking ourselves. It is worrying me a great deal if you can play like that and not get points. I thought we did enough to win it.”
There was a lot warmth between Allardyce and Bilic, but the West Ham manager publicly and pointedly disagreed with his predecessor on that opinion of the match.
“I know we created more chances,” the Croatian said. “We hit the post twice... if you are trying to tell me they deserved to win more than us, no way.”
Bilic was probably right. Other than the last 20 minutes, West Ham always seemed in control, even if they – and especially the below-par Dimitri Payet – did not touch some of the heights they have reached recently.
The winning goal was in keeping with the quality of the game, as Antonio got the ball on the right and tried to trick a sluggish Patrick van Aanholt. That did not quite work but the winger was fortunate with the bounce, and then tried his luck with a low shot that flew past Vito Mannone.
Before that, the Sunderland goalkeeper had done well to push a shot from Mark Noble on to the crossbar, and substitute Andy Carroll then hit the bar at the opposite end on 76 minutes. Sunderland had finally come to life by that point, with Defoe and Jack Rodwell going close on a series of occasions, as it seemed that it finally dawned on the side that they were in real trouble.
That made what happened in the 86th minute all the more remarkable. With Wahbi Khazri free close to goal on the left, the Tunisian inexplicably tried a rabona flick rather than an easy pass and sent the ball out of play.
Allardyce was asked about it afterwards. “I don’t want to comment on that as I might say something I regret.”
West Ham United: (4-2-3-1) Adrian; Byram, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Kouyate, Noble (Obiang, 81); Antonio, Payet, Lanzini (Moses,63); Emenike (Carroll, 59)
Sunderland: (4-3-3) Mannone; Yedlin, Kone, O’Shea, Van Aanholt; Cattermole (Rodwell, 63), M’Vila, Kirchhoff; N’Doye, Khazri, Defoe.
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Antonio (West Ham)
Match rating: 4/10Reuse content