Michail Antonio scored for the third successive match at Upton Park as West Ham secured a 1-0 Premier League win over former boss Sam Allardyce and Sunderland.
Allardyce parted company with West Ham at the end of last season and once again defended his record at the club in the face of supporter criticism this week.
Successor Slaven Bilic has impressively steered West Ham towards the upper reaches of the Premier League – they move up to fifth on the back of this triumph – but there was little of the flowing football he is credited for introducing as an antidote to the Allardyce years in a drab affair.
Antonio’s strike with half an hour played settled the issue, with the in-form winger needing little invitation to capitalise on a Patrick van Aanholt mistake.
West Ham did not build on their advantage with a disjointed second-half showing but Sunderland were similarly uninspired before a pair of late chances fell to substitute Jack Rodwell, who lacked the composure in front of goal to make them count.
Adrian, Sam Byram and Manuel Lanzini returned for West Ham having sat out the 5-1 FA Cup win at Blackburn Rovers, while Allardyce stuck with the XI that beat Manchester United two weeks ago.
Blustery conditions at Upton Park were not conducive to an attractive start, with both teams failing to craft a meaningful chance until the 19th minute.
West Ham captain Mark Noble unleashed a venomous 25-yard strike that Vito Mannone did superbly well to tip against the underside of his crossbar and Emmanuel Emenike could not direct the rebound goalwards.
There was a less accomplished piece of play from Mannone’s opposite number two minutes later, when Adrian’s ill-advised bout of kick-ups almost allowed Wahbi Khazri to open the scoring.
Khazri curled a free-kick on to the top of the bar following a further Adrian misjudgement but the Spaniard saw his team take a 30th-minute lead when Antonio skipped past Van Aanholt and steered a low shot into the far corner.
Mannone appeared to react slowly on that occasion but he was down sharply at his near post when Antonio cut in from the right seeking further damage seven minute before half-time.
West Ham old-boy Jermain Defoe should have hauled Sunderland level within two minutes of the restart as he latched on to Lee Cattermole’s lofted pass over James Collins but lashed wide left-footed.
Van Aanholt then fired wastefully over as Bilic’s side continued their lethargic start to the second period.
Despite a number of promising set-piece opportunities, Adrian enjoyed a relatively untroubled second half until he made a timely block to deny Rodwell from DeAndre Yedlin’s cutback.
West Ham substitute Andy Carroll volleyed against the crossbar but Allardyce was left to rue Rodwell’s finishing once more, with the former Everton midfelder prodding over after a Byram mistake.
Dame N’Doye drew a sharp low save from Adrian in the 80th minute as Sunderland missed out on a point that would have lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Key Opta stats:
– All nine of Antonio’s goals this season have been scored in home games (four for Nottingham Forest, five for West Ham).
– Vito Mannone has conceded in all ten of his appearances this season in all competitions (18 goals).
– The woodwork was hit three times during the game, the joint-most in a Premier League game this season.
– West Ham are unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League games at the Boleyn Ground (W6 D5).
– The Hammers have made their best start to a Premier League season after 27 games, earning 43 points this season, one more than they had in 2005/06 (42).
– West Ham have conceded just four goals in their last eight home games (all competitions), keeping five clean sheets in that spell.
– The Hammers have a goal difference of +10, they have not ended a top-flight season with a positive goal difference sinec 1985-86 (23 seasons without one
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