Every Hammers fan in the land will remember the last time our lads did battle with Sunderland. It wasn’t for good reasons either; I’m sure all of us watched on in despair as our beloved boys departed life in the Premier League with a heavy home defeat. Yeah, we were already resigned to relegation – but we didn’t want to go down without a fi ght. Unfortunately, goals from Bolo Zenden, Stéphane Sessègnon and Cristian Riveros ensured the Hammers’ dismal season concluded with their 19th loss of the campaign.
After Avram Grant was sacked the previous weekend, caretaker boss Kevin Keen employed a youthful side that included five academy graduates. West Ham’s youngsters attacked with purpose early on and the loyal fans inside Upton Park were treated to a lively start. Freddie Sears and Thomas Hitzlsperger called Sunderland ‘keeper Simon Mignolet into action early, but the Hammers were also vulnerable at the back from the onset. On 17 minutes Ahmed Elmohamady sent in a cross from the right wing and an unmarked Zenden duly headed the ball past Robert Green.
The Black Cats comfortably held onto their one goal advantage for the rest of the half, besides Zavon Hines forcing Mignolet to make an acrobatic save in stoppage time. Jack Collison threatened early after the restart with a low free kick, but Sunderland arguably put the game to bed in the 51st minute. Benin international Sessègnon was allowed to carry the ball before unleashing a 25-yard drive, which beat West Ham ‘keeper Green with the help of a slight deflection. Lars Jacobsen and Victor Obinna were introduced along with the lion-hearted Scott Parker in an attempt to enforce change upon the match, but to no avail. Obinna came close to giving the home fans something to cheer about, but headed his chance straight at Mignolet.
The East Londoner’s defence soldiered on until injury time before Paraguayan midfielder Riveros was given time in the box to fi re home Jordan Henderson’s cross. I, along with every other devoted Hammers fan watched that match with a heavy heart. Although I knew we were going to spend the next season in the Championship, I knew we would be back in the top flight with the big boys of English football soon enough. One season later, under the guidance of a manager committed to the cause and backed by a talented squad, our lads donning the claret and blue will be fighting to ensure they secure more valuable points. Here’s hoping!
West Ham: Green, Gabbidon, Tomkins [Jacobsen 54], Spence, Bridge, Collison, Hitzlperger, Boa Morte [Parker 60], Sears, Hines [Obinna 54], Piquionne Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley [Riveros 67], Onuoha, Ferdinand, Zenden, Malbranque, Henderson, Colback, Elmohamady, Sessegnon, Gyan [Cook 72 My prediction today: West Ham 3 – Sunderland 1