West Ham scored the first two goals at the Stadium of Light and then held on tight to withstand a furious Sunderland rally that came up short and put the Black Cats’ Premier League survival hopes into further peril.
Andy Carroll and Mohamed Diame scored for West Ham before Adam Johnson made it interesting with under a half-h0ur to go, but Sunderland could not find an equalizer.
The Black Cats remain four points inside of the drop zone with a ghastly set of fixtures ahead of them, while West Ham is 11 points safe.
Phil Bardsley bolted forward inside of two minutes. He found no options for a pass, and tried a tough bending shot that missed the goal wide. But it was clear Sunderland was ready to push West Ham.
Yet West Ham struck first in the ninth minute, and Newcastle boy Andy Carroll couldn’t help but relish his headed goal against the rivals of his boyhood heroes and former team. Carroll blew kisses to the crowd and gesticulated wildly to the away crowd as the Hammers went up 1-0.
Sunderland nearly struck back straightaway, but Lee Cattermole continued to be snakebit when his open low shot was stopped by Adrian.
The Black Cats protested wildly when a handball in the box was not called on Kevin Nolan, but Webb did not have the viewpoint to see what would’ve been a clear penalty. Neither linesmen stepped in, and it remained 1-0 West Ham into the half.
West Ham doubled its advantage just after halftime. Mohamed Diame stepped up to a headed clear and hit it off a Black Cats defender and past Vito Mannone. With a brutal run-in to Survival Sunday, Sunderland was now in a very, very bad spot.
Stuart Downing could’ve ended it — it being a number of things including Sunderlands survival hopes, but his partial breakaway missed the near post after Mannone appeared to get mere millimeters of a glove on the low shot.
But hold on! Adam Johnson needed just 11 minutes on the pitch to crack a left-footed blast past Adrian after a great side-footed pass from fellow substitute Gardner.
It was 2-1 in the 66th and the home side was feeling some hope. The goal was just Sunderland’s 14th in 15 home PL matches this season.
And it was oh-so-close to getting knotted up in the 68th minute, when Adrian couldn’t handle Ki’s long drive but was able to get his arm in the way of Wickham’s close-range rebound.
Less than two minutes later, it was Fabio Borini’s turn to try and level. Adrian had the short side covered and a pressured Borini put his shot off the outside of the net.
With five minutes of stoppage time, Ignacio Scocco had a good chance to head home an equalizer off a very hard hit cross but put it over the bar.
Sunderland: Mannone; Brown, O’Shea (Gardner, 60′), Vergini; Alonso, Bridcutt, Ki (Scocco, 79′), Cattermole (Johnson, 53′), Bardsley; Wickham, Borini
Goals: Johnson (65)
West Ham United: Adrian; McCartney (Armero, 46′), Tomkins, Reid, Demel; Noble, Taylor; Downing, Nolan (Nocerino, 83′), Diame (Johnson, 78′); Carroll
Goals: Carroll (9), Diame (50)