West Ham won for the first time in eight matches as Valon Behrami’s first goal for the club sealed a 1-0 victory against Sunderland on Sunday.
The Swiss international’s first half strike at the Stadium of Light ended a woeful run that threatened to plunge the Hammers into the Premier League’s bottom three and left Sunderland teetering on the edge of the relegation zone instead.
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola desperately needed a win to restore confidence after enduring a disappointing start to life in charge at Upton Park and the Italian will hope this is a springboard for the rest of the campaign.
Sunderland once again wasted too many chances and Roy Keane’s are facing up to the prospect of a long struggle to beat the drop.
Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse combined to carve open the West Ham defence in the first minute but Dean Whitehead dragged his shot out for a throw-in.
Sunderland threatened again when Cisse found space to meet Andy Reid’s cross. Once more the finish was poor as the France striker headed wide.
Those early misses proved costly as West Ham snatched the lead in the 20th minute after Reid fouled Australia defender Lucas Neill.
Julien Faubert curled a free-kick into the penalty area and Nyron Nosworthy could only head weakly to Behrami, whose shot deflected into the net off Jones.
Cisse might have levelled within seconds, but he headed another precise Reid cross wide of the far post.
Sunderland had won only two of their six home league games this season but they dominated for long periods of the first half.
Reid was Sunderland’s most promising creative force and he whipped in a cross that Robert Green misjudged, the Hammers keeper watching in relief as the ball bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Cisse thought he had won a penalty when James Collins sent him sprawling but referee Mike Dean turned down the home team’s appeals.
Green had to make a smart save five minutes later after Danny Collins fired in a left-foot snapshot.
But Zola’s team should have increased their lead on the stroke of half-time when Craig Bellamy pounced on Anton Ferdinand’s error and squared for Behrami, who hit the bar from six yards.
There was another penalty appeal when Cisse drove Phil Bardlsey’s pass into Matthew Upson’s arm, but again Dean was unmoved.
Bardsley was the provider once again seconds later when he picked out Cisse beyond the far post but the striker could not hit the target.
El-Hadji Diouf replaced the Jones with nine minutes remaining, but it was Dean Whitehead who came closest to snatching a point with a glancing 84th-minute header that Green clutched.
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