West Ham United 1-0 Sunderland

Barclays Premier League
West Ham United 1-0 Sunderland

Diafra Sakho struck a dramatic late winner to fire West Ham United to all three Barclays Premier League points against struggling Sunderland at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

With 88 minutes on the clock, Sakho collected from Mark Noble before slamming emphatically into the opposite corner beyond Mackems stopper Costel Pantilimon.

The returning Jermain Defoe had earlier spurned Sunderland’s best chance, as he volleyed wide with only Adrian to beat, while matchwinner Sakho had twice gone agonisingly close with his head.  

Elsewhere, Hammers skipper Kevin Nolan could and should have won a penalty, but it mattered not as Sakho came to the rescue to earn Sam Allardyce's men a first league win in eight. 

Predictably, Defoe was in the thick of it early on. He sped away down the right, squared up James Collins and picked out Connor Wickham on the left-edge of the box. The former Ipswich man controlled on his chest before lashing a volley goalwards. It was vicious, but straight at Adrian, who gathered at the second time of asking. 

If that was, at best, a half chance, Defoe’s opportunity after 15 was gilt-edged. Wickham turned provider with an excellent header on, leaving the England striker bearing down on Adrian’s goal. But thankfully his predatory instincts escaped him, as he skewed high and wide. 

Cue the West Ham response. Sakho scrapped for it on the by-line and an attempted clearance fell at the feet of Nolan. He swept a snapshot on target but straight into the gloves of Costel Pantilimon.       

Moments later and the Hammers went closer still. Aaron Cresswell crossed from the left and though Sakho met it, his header drifted inches wide of Pantilimon’s left-hand upright. 

The Romanian stopper, by now a busy boy, was soon called upon once more. Alex Song’s technique was sublime as his volley from the edge of the box forced Pantilimon into a smart stop down low to his right.  

At the other end, Defoe continued to threaten. In space on the left he cut inside onto his right foot and let fly. Not his best though, far from it, as it sped along the grass and into Adrian’s arms at the near post. 

Big Sam shuffled his pack at the interval, with Carlton Cole the man to replace winger Matt Jarvis. Meanwhile, Wickham tried the spectacular but his curling effort from all of 25 yards sailed into the traveling Mackems behind the goal.

West Ham’s most likely route to goal looked to be via the head of Sakho. Just as in the first period, Cresswell swung it in from the left and there was Sakho, almost with his back to goal, to head for goal. Under the circumstances, it was an excellent effort, but an unmoved Pantilimon watched it fly past the upright. 

With 63 gone West Ham had claims for a spot-kick and valid claims they were too. A long ball into the box brushed off the head of John O’Shea and into the path of Nolan. As the skipper looked to turn he was quite obviously hauled back. No doubting that but the linesman raised his flag to get the visitors out of jail. Nolan understandably enraged. 

As the clock ticked down, Patrick Van Aanholt sought to take matters into his own hands. The full-back tried his luck from miles out and though it might have been sneaking wide, Adrian was taking no chances and was at full stretch to tip it round the post. 

Without exactly throwing caution to the wind, West Ham threw everything at Sunderland in the latter stages, but nothing fell for them in the 18-yard box.  Nolan, Sakho and substitute Nene were all denied by timely blocks as Dick Advocaat’s men looked destined for an important point. 

But Sakho had other ideas. Noble's lofted ball on the edge of the box sat up perfectly for the Senegal man who made absolutely no mistake, smashing his strike into the ground and into the bottom-left corner. It was no more than the No15 deserved.   

West Ham United: Adrian, Jenkinson, Collins, Kouyate, Cresswell, Song, Noble, Nolan (c) (Nene 80), Jarvis (Cole 46), Downing, Sakho (O'Brien 90) 
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Poyet, Amalfitano

Goal: Sakho 88

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Reveillere, O'Shea (c), Brown (Vergini 13), Van Aanholt, Rodwell, Gomez, Larsson, Wickham, Fletcher (Johnson 73), Defoe (Graham 88) 
Subs: Mannone, Jones, Bridcutt, Watmore

Booked: Wickham 

Referee: Lee Mason