Behrami sinks Sunderland

Valon Behrami's first goal for the club was enough to give West Ham United all three points at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.

The Swiss international midfielder picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area in the 20th minute and drilled in a left-footed shot that went in with the help of a deflection. Behrami could have added a second just before the break but fired against the crossbar. The hosts fought back in the second period but could not find a way past a resilient Hammers' defence.

Opting for a 4-4-2 formation, Gianfranco Zola handed a recall to Julien Faubert and Lee Bowyer in midfield, with Jack Collison and Freddie Sears dropping to the bench. Matthew Etherington did not travel due to a muscle strain, meaning a return as substitute for Luis Boa Morte. In Anton Ferdinand, Sunderland had one former Hammers defender in their ranks but George McCartney missed out through injury.

Sunderland were quick off the mark with Dean Whitehead shooting wide with a speculative effort on 44 seconds. That was as close as either side was to come in the first ten minutes with Matthew Upson paying close attention to Djbril Cisse, who eventually had the first real effort with a header over.

Faubert and Carlton Cole then tried their luck with shots that went straight to Marton Fulop, deputising for the injured Craig Gordon. The match sparked into life with a booking for Andy Reid on 19 minutes after he fouled Lucas Neill out on the right-hand side. Faubert took the free-kick and when the ball was cleared to the edge of the area, Behrami smashed in via Kenwyne Jones to leave Fulop with no chance to save.

Cisse could have equalised immediately but headed wide having managed to evade Upson and James Collins for the first time. Behrami was causing all sorts of problems in his new left-wing role and David Bardsley then went into the book for a foul on the Swiss international. Sunderland thought they had finally scored as the half-hour approached when Reid hit the bar with a curling effort from 20 yards out before Lee Bowyer was then cautioned for bringing down the same player.

It was a full-blooded affair on a freezing afternoon and Cole worked space for a shot that soared over before twice Sunderland claimed James Collins had fouled their forwards in the penalty area - referee Mike Dean waved each one away despite strong protests from the majority of the 35,222 fans in the crowd. Danny Collins then forced Robert Green into his first save with a rising effort before the half finished in dramatic style.

Ferdinand was dispossessed by the on-rushing Bellamy and the Wales striker bore down on goal. Fulop came out and forced him wide but the No10 showed good composure to pick out Behrami as he raced into the area. A second goal seemed certain but the midfielder's shot crashed against the bar and away to safety.

The second half began with Sunderland again appealing, this time after Cisse's shot struck Upson's hand from a couple of feet away. Cisse was proving a menace, getting around the back of the defence on 50 minutes only to head wide when well placed again. It was all Sunderland but Parker soon got things going at the other end with a shot from range that in truth never troubled Fulop before Bowyer headed over.

On the hour, Zola introduced Hayden Mullins for Bowyer and it had the required effect as the match became a less frenetic affair. Sunderland made two changes of their own on 66 minutes with Steed Malbranque off for Carlos Edwards and Reid replaced by Daryl Murphy. Bardsley was next to show with a run and shot on 72 minutes. Zola made another change four minutes later, replacing Faubert with Boa Morte.

El Hadj Diouf came on for Jones with nine minutes remaining and Green held a Whitehead header as the home side pressed for an equaliser. Zola made his final substitution when David Di Michele came on for Bellamy as the visitors survived four minutes of injury time to secure a hard-fought win that moves them four places up the Barclays Premier League table.