Carroll header helps West Ham to vital win at Sunderland
PUBLISHED: 21:55 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 21:57 31 March 2014
The Hammers took a giant step towards safety as they added to Sunderland’s relegation fears
Sunderland 1 West Ham United 2
West Ham all but secured their place in the Premier League for next season as goals from Andy Carroll and Mo Diame saw them hold on for a 2-1 victory over lowly Sunderland at the Stadium of Light to take them to 37 points.
They were forced to hang on grimly at the end, but it was a battling performance by the Hammers and fair reward for the fans who had made the epic journey to the north east on a Monday night.
Manager Sam Allardyce, despite the boos from the fans following last Wednesday’s victory over Hull City, made just one enforced change with Winston Reid replacing the injured with Roger Johnson staying on the bench.
There were just nine minutes on the clock when the Hammers grabbed the lead with the simplest of goals.
Mark Noble’s corner was aimed towards the far post and giant striker Carroll rose high above John O’Shea to head home despite keeper Vita Mannone getting a hand to the ball.
Relegation-haunted Sunderland looked to respond immediately and almost did three minutes later when the ball found it’s way to Lee Cattermole on the far post, only for his shot to be well saved by Adrian in the West Ham goal.
Sunderland were having plenty of possession, but the tight West Ham defence constantly kept them at bay and the Hammers could even have had a second when Noble teed up Matt Taylor only for the midfield man to fire wide as he lost his balance just outside the box.
West Ham seemed content to play on the break and from one such rare attack they carved out another chance when George McCartney hung up another cross from the left and Carroll’s header was comfortably held by Mannone.
Sunderland had a shout for a penalty when Kevin Nolan seemed to control the ball with his elbow in the box, but referee Howard Webb, who had sent off Andy Carroll at Upton Park against Swansea City, waved the appeals away as the Hammers were given a life.
Pablo Armero replaced hamstring victim McCartney at the break for only his second appearance in claret and blue, but it was Sunderland who started the brighter as Connor Wickham’s shot went across the face of goal with Sung-Yong Ki just unable to reach it.
However, on 50 minutes West Ham dealt a savage blow to the Black Cats survival chances with a second goal.
James Tomkins free kick from his own half was chested down by Carroll and Mo Diame was the first to react and his shot got a kind deflection before beating Mannone to make it 2-0.
West Ham were denied a third on the hour when Stewart Downing controlled superbly to storm clear, only for his shot to be touched wide by Mannone, though it may have been slipping the other side of the post in any case.
Sunderland looked shellshocked, but on 66 minutes they threw themselves a lifeline completely out of the blue. Substitute Adam Johnson, the Black Cats top scorer, cut into the box and curled a shot pasr Adrian to make it 2-1 with 25 minutes still to go.
And Sunderland almost completed their comeback two minutes later when Ki hit one from 20 yards which was blocked by Adrian into the path of Wickham, but somehow the Spanish keeper got back up to deny the striker as well.
Fabio Borini clattered a shot into the side netting as Sunderland began to take complete control, but some calm defending by Tomkins and Reid kept the home side out as they desperately searched for an equaliser.
Allardyce looked to shut up shop with 10 minutes left as Johnson replaced Diame to make it five at the back, just as the boss had done with Reid in the three wins at Upton Park in February.
Carroll had a couple of half chances in the closing stages, seeing one effort blocked and the other fly over, while at the other end, Adrian held on to a Borini skimmer and Marcos Alonso fizzed one over from the edge of the box.
Sunderland threw caution to the wind in the final couple of minutes and even Mannone went up for a couple of corners, but West Ham held firm to secure all three points and all but secure Premier League football for next season.
Instead of boos from the West Ham fans there was chants of ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ as they contemplated their long journey home.
West Ham: Adrian, Demel, McCartney (Armero h/t), Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Taylor, Diame (Johnson 79), Nolan (Nocerino 83), Downing, Carroll.
Booked: Noble, Reid, Adrian.