Wednesday 20 September 2017

Pressure on Slaven Bilic eased as West Ham end losing run

West Ham 1-0 Swansea

Slaven Bilic, Manager of West Ham United looks on prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Swansea City at London Stadium. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Slaven Bilic, Manager of West Ham United looks on prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Swansea City at London Stadium. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
West Ham finally had something to celebrate

Cheikhou Kouyate eased West Ham's relegation fears and lifted the pressure on manager Slaven Bilic as the Hammers beat Swansea 1-0.

The midfielder picked a timely moment to score his first Premier League goal of the season to sink Swansea.

Bilic has been feeling the heat after five straight defeats left West Ham in serious danger of being sucked into the battle at the bottom.

A sixth loss would have left them just two points ahead of Swansea, and possibly signalled the end for Bilic, but instead they can breathe easier after moving eight points clear of the drop zone.

For Swansea, a fifth consecutive away defeat leaves them in 18th, although t hey will at least be heartened by Hull losing at Manchester City to keep them in what increasingly appears to be two-horse race to avoid the last relegation spot.

Bilic was given another vote of confidence before the match by joint-chairman David Sullivan, who said the board have "100 per cent faith" in the Croatian.

The players, it seems, are also still behind him and were desperate for an early goal to ease some of the pressure, but found Swans goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in no mood to help.

Michail Antonio's cross found the head of Robert Snodgrass, who was denied a first Hammers goal when Fabianski just managed to hold the ball on his goalline.

Then former Swans forward Andre Ayew raced on to Mark Noble's through-ball, cut inside and saw his attempted curler palmed away by the Polish keeper.

As has often been the case this season, when West Ham failed to turn their early possession into goals the nerves set in and they retreated to the edge of their own area.

Swansea almost took advantage when a cross from Jordan Ayew, Andre's brother, just evaded Gylfi Sigurdsson at the far post.

The Hammers' mood darkened further when Antonio, playing up front, pulled up with a hamstring injury and had to be replaced.

Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho were on the bench but, presumably due to fitness concerns, and to widespread disbelief around the stadium, Bilic turned to one-goal Argentinian forward Jonathan Calleri.

But the jitters were eased when, a minute before half-time, Kouyate took matters into his own hands.

The Senegal midfielder embarked on a marauding run into Swansea's half, exchanged passes with Snodgrass before taking aim from 20 yards and lashing the ball inside Fabianski's near post.

After the break Fabianski saved from Ayew and Calleri drilled a good chance into the sidenetting as West Ham sought a second.

But Swansea had their chances, too, with Luciano Narsingh firing wide and James Collins hooking Jefferson Montero's cross from under the crossbar.

So the relief was palpable at the final whistle as West Ham finally celebrated a victory, and one which could be vital for Bilic.

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