West Ham Utd 2 Sunderland 0

  • by Staff Writer
  • Saturday, 4th April 2009

It was 2-0 to the Academy at the Boleyn this afternoon as goals from Junior Stanislas and James Tomkins sent the Hammers back into seventh spot in the Premier League.

Stanislas - who opened the scoring three minutes before the break - and Tomkins - who added the second decisive goal eight minutes into the second half - both recorded their first ever senior goals for the club on a sunny afternoon in East London.

Stanislas, like Tomkins was of course only offered the opportunity to shine as a result of United's chronic injury problem, which worsened prior to the start of today's game with the loss of Scott Parker and Radoslav Kovac.

But that was to prove no problem to Gianfranco Zola's side who, despite featuring only FOUR players guaranteed a first team spot (Rob Green, Matthew Upson, Lucas Neill and Herita Ilunga) were simply to much for an admittedly awful Sunderland side who are now facing the very real threat of relegation given their remaining fixture list.

Tomkins was rewarded for his recent good form by retaining his first team spot despite the return to fitness of James Collins, himself a collosus in the centre of defence prior to his recent injury. In the end it proved to be an inspired decision by Zola, for the 20-year-old could have recorded a hat-trick - although he will no doubt be more than happy with the one strike he registered that put the Hammers out of reach.

The Hammers, still in the hunt for a Europa League spot next season could have taken the lead inside the opening minute - however Tomkins, criminally left unmarked could only nod a Mark Noble corner wide of the post. Seven minutes later Rob Green had to be at his best to deny Grant Leadbitter whose 25-yard drive brought out a fingertip save from the England stopper. It was to prove a frustrating afternoon for the former England under-21 who was the most likely to make anything happen for the visitors.

David Di Michele, without a goal since January 28th saw two good first half chances go begging; his first, a fierce volley from outside the box flew narrowly wide of Craig Gordon's near post whilst he went even closer in the final minute of the half with a curling effort from close range. Despite failing to register once again it was a good afternoon for the Italian whose clever touches and keen vision drew several rounds of appreciative applause from the home crowd.

But today was all about the future rather than the past and Junior Stanislas announced his arrival in the Premier League when he completed a superb counter attack three minutes ahead of the break to open the scoring. The 19-year-old will no doubt be hugely grateful to Luis Boa Morte after the Portuguese midfielder set it up on a plate for him with a superb weighted pass, but it was a great team goal nonetheless - all started by the vision of Rob Green, whose long throw started the move.

With Sunderland still reeling from that particular blow the Hammers made the most of the visitor's disarray just eight minutes after the restart when Tomkins made amends for his earlier miss with a firm header from an almost identical situation. The fact that it was Anton Ferdinand who Tomkins outfoxed on both occasions will not have gone unnoticed, especially by those who made the decision to sell him at the start of the season.

Thereafter the game rather petered out; with the points in the bag the Hammers were happy to contain Sunderland whilst the visitors rarely suggested that they were ever likely to threaten United's two goal advantage. Although a number of efforts were registered in the final stages neither keeper was seriously threatened meaning a fourth clean sheet in five for Green, who can only have enhanced his England credentials today.

Unfortunately the win was marred by yet another dangerous injury, this time to the unfortunate Jon Spector who until that point had been playing well at right back. A full blooded (fair) challenge with Tal Ben-Haim left the American concussed, and it was some seven minutes later that he was finally stretchered off the field having received oxygen whilst lying stricken.

So assuming he can still raise a side, Gianfranco Zola is likely see his team tested to the limit by the short trip to Tottenham next weekend. With Spurs now six points behind the Hammers following defeat at Blackburn today it is a game they cannot afford to lose if they are to have any chance of leapfrogging the Hammers.

As it stands United are now just four points behind sixth-placed Everton who host Wigan - another challenger for seventh spot - tomorrow afternoon.

West Ham Utd 2 Sunderland 0: Match Stats

West Ham Utd: Green, Neill, Ilunga, Tomkins, Upson, Noble, Spector (Collins 73), Stanislas (Lopez 90+1), Boa Morte, Di Michele (Dyer 81), Tristan.

Subs not used: Lastuvka, Payne, Savio, Sears.

Booked: Ilunga (90+7).

Efforts on goal: 14 (1, 22, 27, 42*, 44; 50, 52, 53*, 61, 62, 62, 82, 90, 90+4).

Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Ben-Haim, Collins, Ferdinand, Leadbitter, Whitehead, Malbranque (Edwards 75), Richardson, Cisse, Murphy (Jones 54).

Subs not used: Fulop, Nosworthy, Reid, McShane, Healy.

Booked: Whitehead (24).

Efforts on goal: 13 (8, 19, 32, 38, 41; 48, 64, 78, 87, 89, 90+2, 90+2, 90+7).

Referee: M.Jones (7).

Attendance: tbc.

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