James Collins, Andre Ayew help West Ham get necessary away point
West Ham took an important point from the Stadium of Light, holding Sunderland to a 2-2 draw in an entertaining game.
Sunderland had failed to score in their past seven matches and it was inevitable that the Hammers -- always the most generous of opponents -- would give the home side their first goal in 700 minutes. Fortunately for Slaven Bilic's men, Wahib Khazri's wind-assisted corner that drifted straight into the Hammers' goal came after Andre Ayew had poked the visitors ahead after five minutes.
The home crowd got fully behind their side as the Black Cats put up a spirited performance, but it wasn't enough to stop their team going behind again a minute into the second half. Robert Snodgrass used the swirling wind in much the same manner as Khazri had done in the first, with James Collins heading in from close range.
Billy Jones suffered a sickening head injury in a shoulder clash with Arthur Masuaku in the closing moments of the game. The right-back was stretchered off, allowing Fabio Borini on as a substitute. Borini inevitably struck the late equaliser, giving the roaring crowd hope in the added injury time. Although West Ham held firm for once, the team added to the pressure by going down to 10 men when Sam Byram was sent off in the 95th minute.
West Ham are almost certainly safe now, but this match showed why this has been such a nervous season for all Hammers fans.
The Hammers withheld the pressure, as Sunderland pressed late, and looked dangerous when going forward despite being without key man Michail Antonio following his season-ending injury.
More points thrown away from a winning position -- that's 22 for the season -- and the Hammers have also conceded more goals than the almost-certainly doomed Sunderland. Bilic has much work to do at season's end.
Manager rating out of 10:
7 -- Bilic is correct in stating that there is still work to do to be mathematically certain of Premier League football next season, but the manager needs to start drawing up a list of players he needs for next season now.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Darren Randolph, 4 -- The Irish keeper could perhaps rightly claim he was impeded by Victor Anichebe on Khazri's goal, but his flap on Darron Gibson's hopeful punt in the closing seconds was unforgivable. Cost his side two extra points.
DF Sam Byram, 5 -- Did well defensively for the most part but let himself down by getting a yellow card for a silly pull on Anichebe. He then saw red for a bad foul on Adnan Januzaj deep into injury time. It could have cost his side the game.
DF Jose Fonte, 7 -- The Portuguese defender did well for the second game in a row and managed some useful blocks.
DF James Collins, 8 -- Sound defensively and came up for a headed glance of a goal early in the second half, too.
DF Arthur Masuaku, 8 -- Another good performance from Masuaku suggests that Aaron Cresswell might have to wait to get his place back.
MF Cheikhou Kouyate, 7 -- Strong in the centre of the midfield but gave the ball away too much to earn top ratings.
MF Edimilson Fernandes, 6 -- Replaced the suspended Mark Noble on his 21st birthday. Looked bright early on but faded later.
MF Manuel Lanzini, 6 -- Another player who started well but faded later. Sunderland did well to stop the Argentinian, though.
MF Robert Snodgrass, 5 -- Had a good corner to produce West Ham's second goal but still nowhere near convincing.
FW Andre Ayew, 7 - Tallied a poacher's goal after five minutes when Andy Carroll's mis-hit shot came to him. Ayew caused some problems to Sunderland in the first half but became less of a threat later. Frustratingly, Bilic doesn't seem to be able to get 90 minutes from the Ghanaian.
FW Andy Carroll, 7 -- Carroll inevitably won most of the aerial battles and his threat was enough, although there was little real end product.
Havard Nordtveit, N/R -- On for Snodgrass on 81 minutes, but didn't really show much in what was largely a defensive game after his arrival.
Jonathan Calleri, N/R -- If nothing else, Calleri can claim he got some game time 10 minutes after the scheduled end of the match. Introduced for Ayew in what was just a bit of time-wasting as the Hammers held out.
Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is ESPN FC's West Ham blogger.