West Ham put daylight between themselves and the Premier League’s bottom three with a much-needed 1-0 victory over Swansea City to leave Paul Clement’s men deep in the relegation mire.
Five consecutive defeats had left West Ham just five points clear of the 18th-placed visitors, piling pressure on manager Slaven Bilic, but a first win in over two months, courtesy of Cheikhou Kouyate’s goal, relieved a nervy London Stadium.
The Hammers struggled to take advantage of a poor Swansea performance but Kouyate’s first league goal of the season eased the hosts’ worries on the stroke of half-time.
Chances to extend that lead were few and far between in the second period with West Ham dropping deep and battling hard to keep the visitors, and substitute Fernando Llorente in particular, at bay.
The win takes Bilic’s men to 36 points, condemning Swansea to a fifth straight away loss – their worst ever run on the road in the Premier League – as their own fight for survival became tougher still.
A scrappy opening 20 minutes gave way to a spell of West Ham pressure, with Manuel Lanzini fizzing a 25-yard free-kick over the top and Robert Snodgrass’ dangerous header saved by Lukasz Fabianski on the goal line.
Another Lanzini effort cleared the crossbar, before Fabianski again saved well when Andre Ayew sent a powerful drive towards the bottom-left corner.
Swansea had offered little in response, but finally troubled the home defence with Federico Fernandez’s header from a corner desperately scrambled clear as Wayne Routledge sought to apply a close-range finish.
West Ham’s MIchail Antonio then pulled up with an apparent hamstring complaint and West Ham captain Mark Noble picked up a costly yellow card – his 10th of the season to earn a two-match ban – as the visitors started to gain a foothold in the game.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick tested Darren Randolph, but it was the hosts who ended a frustrating first half in style when Kouyate burst forward from midfield to arrow a strike into the bottom-right corner.
Mr Friend books him. How unfriendly.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) April 8, 2017
Although Clement introduced Luciano Narsingh and returning top-scorer Llorente at the break, West Ham began the second half on top with Sam Byram rifling a low shot just wide.
That momentum soon slowed, but Swansea failed to make the most of a series of set-pieces and then themselves lost a key performer as Jack Cork hobbled off.
Noble drew a comfortable save from Fabianski in a rare forward foray, before Fernandez sliced a clearance over his own crossbar as Swansea’s threat waned.
Lanzini again curled off target with West Ham’s profligacy giving Swansea hope in the closing stages, but Narsingh fired just over as he ran clear to squander the visitors’ best chance.
Ayew had two late opportunities to clinch the points against his former club but a pair of Fabianski saves mattered little as West Ham clung on and extended Swansea’s miserable run away from home.
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