Andy Carroll, West Ham

Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham: Victory lifts Irons out of the drop zone (video)

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West Ham’s win at Cardiff may very well have saved Sam Allardyce’s job, at least for the moment. The three points lift the Irons even with today’s opponents, but, by virtue of goal difference, push Cardiff down into the relegation zone. Now it’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who’ll be feeling the pressure, with the new Cardiff manager expected to turn the side around.

The match may have been a relegation six-pointer, but West Ham, three points from safety, were even more in need of a win, and it was evident from the start. With five minutes gone, the visitors had an opportunity of sorts, when Stewart Downing’s cross sailed past his teammates yet connected with the post. James Tomkins tried to get ahold of the rebound, but David Marshall came out to rescue Cardiff.

Shortly thereafter, Guy Demel collided with teammate Roger Johnson, crashing to the ground and lying still. After a lengthy delay, Demel was stretchered off. Reports from West Ham are that he has been admitted to hospital for tests, with more information provided when available.

It was the hosts that looked to be on top for the majority of the first half, yet West Ham went into the break leading thanks to a goal from Carlton Cole. Matt Taylor put the ball out wide, giving Matt Jarvis the chance to send it across the face of goal. Carlton Cole pushed past the Cardiff defense to send the ball into the roof of the net.

Cardiff, out of ideas, were forced to resort to appealing for a penalty during the first half’s injury time, when Craig Noone went down under a challenge from James Tomkins. The referee waved play on, and the hosts went into the break trailing 1-0.

Solskjaer brought on Craig Bellamy to start the second half, hoping the forward’s first appearance in two months might buoy his squad. Cardiff did look lively, pressing for the equalizer throughout the second half. Mark Hudson nearly put in a Bellamy free kick, but his header was high.

Cardiff again appealed for a penalty when George McCartney appeared to handle the ball inside the area, but again they got no sympathy. Lee Mason again waved away appeals when McCartney pawed at Frazier Campbell inside the area.

Campbell must’ve thought he’d gotten his own back when he lashed out a great strike. But Adrian performed an amazing save, managing to tip the ball over the bar to preserve West Ham’s lead.

The hosts finally had a decision go their way when James Tomkins was sent off, earning a second yellow for a high boot. With almost 20 minutes remaining, the Bluebirds’ play made it seem like it’d be just a matter of time before an equalizer.

Instead it was West Ham that grabbed the second goal. Andy Carroll, on for Carlton Cole in the 72nd minute, slipped a neat ball in to Mark Noble. Noble’s low shot nestled into the far corner, securing all three points for the Irons.

Cardiff City: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Hudson (Cornelius 78) Caulker, John, Whittingham, Medel (Eikrem 65), Kim, Noone, Campbell, Odemwingie (Bellamy 45)

West Ham: Adrian, Tomkins, Jarvis, Rat, Collison (Diarra 75), Taylor, Noble, Demel (McCartney 17), Downing, C Cole (Carroll 72), Johnson

Goals: Carlton Cole 42′; Noble 93′

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.