West Ham stumble to another humiliating defeat
Rock bottom Hammers are thrashed at home by Sunderland
West Ham United 0 Sunderland 3
The curtain finally fell on the rock-bottom Hammers season of horror with yet another dismal defeat writes STEVE BLOWERS.
And there will certainly be no call for an East End encore after Boudewijn Zenden marked what was almost certainly his last appearance in a Sunderland shirt with his second goal of the campaign on the quarter-hour mark before Stephane Sessegnon and substitute Cristian Riveros made sure of a comprehensive Black Cats victory after break.
Kevin Keen had been expected to give the understudies a chance on the Boleyn Ground stage in readiness for next season’s Championship campaign but following last Sunday’s relegation-confirming capitulation at Wigan Athletic, the caretaker boss surprisingly made just two changes.
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Freddie Sears and Luis Boa Morte both received call-ups, while exciting youth prospect Dylan Tombides was refreshingly handed a place on the bench alongside the richly deserving three-times Hammer of the Year winner Scott Parker and several of the other usual suspects.
That meant there were no final last walk-on parts for the likes of Matthew Upson, Robbie Keane, Jonathan Spector, Demba Ba and top goal-scorer Carlton Cole, who will now surely follow Avram Grant down Green Street ahead, no doubt, of finding new Premier League clubs in the summer, while the loyal, long-suffering Hammers fans dig out the directions to such delightful destinations as Doncaster Rovers, Burnley and Barnsley.
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After looking all set to get sucked into the relegation picture, too, the 14th-placed Black Cats’ luck had held out in recent weeks and, incredibly, despite last weekend’s home defeat to Wolves, they still harboured hopes of a top-half finish.
Steve Bruce made two changes as John Mensah and Riveros were replaced by ex-Hammer Anton Ferdinand and fit again, 11-goal Asamoah Gyan, who soon forced Robert Green into the first saves of the afternoon with two weak 15-yard efforts inside the opening five minutes .
At the other end, Zavon Hines saw Simon Mignolet thwart him with his legs and then Sears let fly from 20 yards only for the Sunderland keeper to fist the curling effort aside for a corner.
Add in a looping effort from Nedum Onuoha, an Ahmed Elmohamady long-ranger plus skipper Thomas Hitzlsperger’s fearsome 30-yard free-kick that thudded into Mignolet’s ribcage and this really was turning into an end-to-end, end of season encounter.
James Tomkins saw his close-range shot charged down before the busy Gyan again unleashed another effort that Green smothered on his near post.
Inevitably, a goal was never going to be far away but, sadly for the West Ham supporters on 16 minutes they were subjected to the all too familiar sight of the flat-footed Green picking the ball out of his own net, after the unmarked Zenden met Elmohamady’s right-wing cross with a looping 10-yard header.
The Dutchman’s second goal of the campaign certainly subdued the crowd, who were left to save their biggest cheers for Parker’s touchline warm-up and, although Collison scuffed across the face of goal before also heading wide, Hines had the best chance to bag a leveller in first-half stoppage time, but Mignolet managed to brilliantly beat out the youngster’s point-blank shot on the turn.
Just after the restart, the escaping Hines was in the thick of things again and, after Phil Bardsley was booked for tripping him in full flow, Collison saw the consequent, angled free-kick saved at the base of his near-post by the Black Cats keeper.
On 52 minutes, though, any hopes of a second-half comeback evaporated when Sessegnon claimed his third goal of the season after he was allowed to run from half-way and beat the groping Green with a low 20-yard shot that somehow crept inside the careless keeper’s right-hand upright.
With yet another match now slipping away, Keen replaced Hines and the limping Tomkins with Victor Obinna and Lars Jacobsen before making a third and final switch that saw Boa Morte make way for Parker, whose arrival was greeted with a chant of “We’ve only got one man!”
Midway through the half, Obinna was tripped by the consequently cautioned Steed Malbranque and, when Hitzlsperger floated the resultant free-kick to the far post, Inter Milan’s on-loan striker almost signed off his spell at Upton Park with a goal, but the agile Mignolet reacted well to save the Nigerian’s downward header.
Sadly, there was yet more Hammers heartbreak to follow in the third minute of stoppage time, when the unmarked substitute Riveros was allowed to chest down Jordan Henderson’s right-wing cross and lash a ten-yarder past the woefully exposed Green.
Having just succumbed to their 19th defeat of the season, the claret and blue shirts trudged off at the final whistle with their long-suffering supporters chanting: “That’s why we’re going down” and it will be interesting to see exactly how many of those players emerge from the tunnel, when that Championship campaign kicks-off in August.
HAMMERS: Green, Spence, Bridge, Gabbidon, Tomkins (Jacobsen 54), Sears, Collison, Hitzlsperger, Boa Morte (Parker 60), Hines (Obinna 54), Piquionne. Unused Subs: Boffin, Kovac, Stanislas, Tombides.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Bardsley (Riveros 67), Colback, Ferdinand, Onuoha, Elmohamady, Malbranque, Zenden, Henderson, Sess�gnon, Gyan (Cook 71). Unused Subs: Carson, Knott, Noble, Adams, Lynch.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.