Sam Allardyce endures unhappy return to West Ham as Sunderland slip to defeat
Sam Allardyce endured an unhappy return to Upton Park as Sunderland slipped to a 1-0 defeat against West Ham.
Michail Antonio's first-half goal left Allardyce empty-handed and the Black Cats stuck in the Premier League relegation zone.
Yet the former Hammers boss will be wondering how his side did not take something from the game after Jermain Defoe and Jack Rodwell missed glorious chances after the break.
The build-up to the game centred around Allardyce, whose relationship with the West Ham supporters was strained to say the least during his four years in charge.
He may have anticipated a hot reception yet nothing more sinister than a polite smattering of applause greeted the 61-year-old as he took his seat in the opposition dug-out.
The opening 20 minutes of the match itself was also perhaps a little too cordial, with neither side mustering an attempt at goal.
But the game woke up when Manuel Lanzini tip-toed across the 18-yard line and teed up home skipper Mark Noble, whose fierce drive from the edge of the area was tipped onto the crossbar by Vito Mannone.
At the other end, Hammers keeper Adrian's attempts at ball juggling almost backfired as he was charged down by Wahbi Khazri, but luckily for the Spaniard the ball spun to safety.
Moments later Khazri whipped in a swerving, dipping free-kick which clipped the top of Adrian's goal.
The winner arrived after half an hour with a piece of Sunderland defending which would have left Allardyce choking on his chewing gum.
Sam Byram's pass down the right wing looked harmless until Patrick van Aanholt allowed Antonio to gather the ball and turn back inside.
The winger then strolled into the penalty area unchallenged before rifling his shot across Mannone into the far corner.
Antonio was denied a second by Mannone before the interval, but it was Sunderland who would regret missed opportunities in the second half.
Former Hammers striker Defoe should have equalised in the 50th minute after running onto Lee Cattermole's lofted pass, but he snatched at his shot and pulled it wide.
Defoe then got free in the area only to curl his shot off target, before substitute Rodwell came up with the miss of the match.
DeAndre Yedlin got free down the right and cut the ball back for the midfielder who only had to guide it into the net from eight yards, but instead he hit it straight at Adrian.
West Ham might have added to their lead after Byram headed across goal but substitute Andy Carroll's shot came crashing back off the crossbar.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Great win today - 5th in the table, lovely start to the weekend." - Baroness Brady on her side's win.
Adrian: 6 (Out of 10)
Aaron Cresswell: 7
James Collins: 7
Angelo Ogbonna: 6
Sam Byram: 6
Cheikhou Kouyate: 7
Mark Noble: 6
Michail Antonio: 8
Dimitri Payet: 6
Manuel Lanzini: 7
Emmanuel Emenike: 6
Andy Carroll: 6
Victor Moses: 6
Pedro Obiang: 6
Vito Mannone: 7
Patrick van Aanholt: 5
John O'Shea: 6
Lamine Kone: 6
DeAndre Yedlin: 6
Jan Kirchhoff: 7
Lee Cattermole: 6
Wahbi Khazri: 7
Yann M'Vila: 6
Dame N'Doye: 6
Jermain Defoe: 5
Jack Rodwell: 4
Michail Antonio: Pressed into action as an emergency right-back in the cup last week, Antonio was back in the Hammers attack against Sunderland and responded with a fine solo goal and another energetic display.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Jack Rodwell: Sunderland sub will not be able to sleep tonight after missing a glorious chance to equalise, planting his shot straight at Hammers keeper Adrian from all of eight yards out.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
West Ham welcomed back Lanzini from injury, while Byram's return allowed Antonio to move back into his preferred attacking role. Sunderland were unchanged from their win over Manchester United last time out.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Early kick-offs may work for TV but so often the teams, and the crowd, take a while to wake up.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
West Ham v Tottenham (Barclays Premier League, Wednesday March 2)
Sunderland v Crystal Palace (Barclays Premier League, Tuesday March 1)
Speaking on BT Sport, Antonio said: "They threw everything at us, it's a great three points and now we kick on to the next game.
"I put five-in-five of my finishes in at training (like the goal) yesterday so I thought I would have a go today."
Goalkeeper Adrian added: "We defended so well, but I think we deserved the win and the three points. We are on a good run but we need to keep going.
"We have shown great spirit in the last (few) games and we are in a good position in the league."