Antonio’s Solo Strike Ruins Allardyce’s Reunion
Posted by James Jones | Published on February 28, 2016
A game that was far from going down as a classic ended 1-0 to the home side in the early Saturday kick-off thanks to Michail Antonio’s first-half solo goal. It’s fair to say Sam Allardyce got the reception he was hoping for when he returned to Upton Park for the first time since his contract was left to run out last summer. The home fans didn’t boo nor did they really pay much attention to our former boss, which I’m sure Sam would have hoped for upon arrival.
Many people were expecting this game to be the typical game when ex-managers or players come back to haunt you that we’ve all seen happen over the years, but on this occasion ex-West Ham boss Sam Allardyce and ex-player Jermaine Defoe left East London disappointed and went home with nothing despite creating chances.
Slaven Bilic made 3 changes to the line-up which breezed past Blackburn last week bringing in Adrian San Miguel, Sam Byram and Manuel Lanzini for Darren Randolph, Pedro Obiang and Victor Moses respectively. While Allardyce named an unchanged starting line-up to the one that beat Manchester United 2-1 a couple of weeks ago.
Sunderland started the match the better of the two teams following their impressive win over Van Gaal’s Manchester United but failed to capitalise on that. 20 minutes into the first half West Ham skipper Mark Noble made the perfect connection to his 25-yard shot but, somehow saw Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone divert it onto the crossbar and over for a corner. Not even 5 minutes later the visitors nearly opened the scoring when one of Allardyce’s newest recruits, Wahbi Khazri almost caught out West Ham’s Adrian in goal from a free kick on the right-hand side which made connection with the top side of the crossbar.
Heading towards the half hour mark the deadlock was broken when Michail Antonio found the back of the net, cutting in from the right putting the hosts 1-0 up with the help of some worrying defending by the relegation battlers. Byram launched a hopeful ball forward which should have been dealt with by Van Aanholt, instead of clearing it at the first chance, done the opposite and was caught in possession by the goalscorer on the right wing just as it was about to go out of play. Despite the poor defending Michail had some work to do before scoring his 5th goal for West Ham since his summer move from Nottingham Forest. Antonio’s goal celebration was a major hit across social media when he ran towards the corner flag, before laying down and running in a prone manner in tribute to Homer Simpson. When interviewed after the match the English winger said:
“I was watching the Simpsons’ movie with my kid, saw it, and thought that looked hilarious, I think I pulled it off nicely”
Antonio nearly doubled the lead before half-time when he struck the ball on the volley producing another save from Mannone at his near post.
Second-half and less than 3 minutes from kick-off Jermaine Defoe almost made the most of a miss-timed jump by the Welsh international defender James Collins. The ball bounced over Collins but Defoe could only drag his shot wide of the post. Sunderland created their best chance of the game during the last 20 minutes of the game when Jan Kirchoff and DeAndre Yedlin linked up down the right before, Adrian produced a fine save reacting well with his feet to keep out substitute Jack Rodwell from close range.
West Ham substitute Andy Carroll returning from injury came close to finishing off the game when his volley hammered back off the crossbar, after being set up from Byram’s header back across goal. A few more chances fell to Sunderland in their quest to survive relegation but none of which were enough to trouble Adrian who added another clean sheet to his tally.
This win for Slaven Bilic’s West Ham means they moved up to 5th place temporarily awaiting the Manchester United vs Arsenal result. While Allardyce’s men remain in the middle of the relegation battle places, only needing a point to rise above Newcastle and Norwich City.
West Ham have extended their unbeaten run at home this season to 11 matches dating back to August 2015, their best in 18 years with Tottenham Hotspurs up next. This season has seen West Ham accumulate their best ever points haul after 27 games while Tottenham are also having their best season and haven’t lost away since August 2015.
Looking ahead to next week West Ham host Tottenham which in itself is a big game of the season for both clubs and this time around much more is on the line with Spurs targeting the title along with Leicester City and West Ham hopeful of a place in Europe or even push for Champions League football. Anything can happen in 90 minutes, and this season shows just that.
Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland face Crystal Palace at The Stadium of Light next in what will be a must win for the Black Cats in order to maintain their Premier League status.