West Ham cling on for vital win over Swansea City
PUBLISHED: 17:11 08 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:11 08 April 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers grabbed all three points at the London Stadium thanks to Kouyate strike
West Ham United 1 Swansea City 0
Crisis? What crisis? That was the question the happy Hammers were asking themselves after they finally ended the wretched run that had landed themselves in so much trouble at the wrong end of the table.
Far from being Slaven Bilić’s final Swan-song, the West Ham United manager departed to chants of ‘Super Slav’ after Cheikhou Kouyaté’s 44th-minute screamer sent his side eight points clear of danger, while struggling Swansea trudged away still firmly in the drop-zone.
Wednesday evening’s listless loss at the Emirates Stadium had made it a forlorn, fifth-consecutive defeat for West Ham, whose beleaguered boss Bilić had upgraded this clash to ‘very vital’ in response to his board’s previous contention that the pre-Easter, April medley of matches against Hull City, Arsenal and Swansea City were ‘vital’.
Shot down at Arsenal by the Gunners three-goal, second-half salvo, the Hammers had kicked-off just three rungs and five points ahead of the 18th-placed Swans and the cautious Croatian responded by making just one precautionary switch as Robert Snodgrass came in for substitute Andy Carroll, who had niggled his groin in that derby defeat.
Certainly backed by their vociferous claret and blue supporters, who realised the significance of this crucial clash, West Ham showed few nerves inside the opening quarter-hour but apart from a solitary corner and a 25-yard free-kick from Manuel Lanzini that tickled the roof of Lukasz Fabiański’s net, they had little to show for their early dominance.
But midway through the half, lone-striker Michail Antonio cleverly scooped to the far post, where Snodgrass got between Martin Olsson and Jack Cork to send a downward header into the groping glove of Fabiański, who somehow held the ball on the goal-line to keep the score-line blank.
Shortly afterwards, Lanzini sent another long-ranger over the bar and then, on the half-hour mark, former Swan André Ayew glided into the visitors box but, once again, Fabiański was on hand to brilliantly beat his angled 12-yarder aside.
The Swans had also been floored on Wednesday evening, when they surrendered a hard-fought lead and conceded three late goals to Tottenham Hotspur in a confidence-sapping, knock-out blow that had left them in drop-zone but clearly manager Paul Clement had seen sufficient in those opening 88 minutes to name an unchanged team.
Finally, the visitors threatened when Jordan Ayew showed that he could be just as dangerous as his big brother as he tried to back-heel Gylfi Sigurdsson’s first corner of the game over the line but there were just too many Hammers blocking his path.
And the Swansea duo combined once more, when Ayew outpaced James Collins before whipping over a right-wing cross that just eluded the studs of the stretching Icelandic ace and then Mark Noble marked his 400th appearance with a suspension-inducing booking for lunging at Leroy Fer, who picked himself up to see Darren Randolph get down smartly to gather Sigurdsson’s consequent free-kick.
As Stratford’s Spring sun beat down on the London Stadium, Swansea were enjoying their brightest spell, while Antonio – who had pulled out of England’s recent international squad with hamstring problems – limped away holding the back of his leg to be replaced by Jonathan Calleri with five minutes of the first-half remaining.
Suddenly, these were worrying moments for West Ham United but, on 44 minutes, Noble threaded the ball through to Snodgrass, who in turn invited Kouyaté to stride forward and let fly with a 20-yarder that scorched between the outstretched left palm of Fabiański and the right-hand post to ease East End tension.
Having just struck a fantastic fourth goal of the season, the celebrating Senegalese scorer was booked for overdoing the hugs and kisses with the friendly locals but that sixth yellow card of the campaign was the least of the Hammers worried as they departed at the break with that precious lead.
Clement introduced fit-again Fernando Llorente and Luciano Narsingh in place of Tom Carroll and Wayne Routledge for the restart but it was West Ham who continued from where they left off as both Ayew and Sam Byram ripped angled shots into the side-netting.
The probing Lanzini was also booked for diving under the challenge of Federico Fernández before skipper Cork hobbled away to be replaced by Jefferson Montero, while Sofiane Feghouli came on for Snodgrass.
Fellow substitute Calleri clipped one onto the roof of the net, while Noble also tried his luck from 35 yards but Fabiański had seen it fizzing through the air and after Fernández was booked for assaulting Ayew, Lanzini sent the consequent free-kick just over the angle.
Ayew was also cautioned for felling Fer, while Montero broke forward and launched an angled effort just wide of the Randolph’s left-hand post and then Collins hooked another cross from the Ecuador international away from danger.
At the other end, Ayew’s close-range effort was fisted away by Fabiański and with Bilić frantically wearing out shoe leather patrolling every inch of his technical area, the ex-City goal ace headed straight at the Swans keeper before being replaced by Edimilson Fernandes for the closing stages.
Late on, Calleri nearly ripped the net from the goal hooks with another angled volley that tore into the side-netting but, by now, hearty bursts of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ were ringing around a relieved London Stadium as West Ham climbed those eight points clear of danger.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Byram, Masuaku, Fonte, Collins, Kouyaté, Noble, Snodgrass (Feghouli 70), Lanzini, Ayew A (Fernandes 86), Antonio (Calleri 40). Unused subs: Adrián, Nordtveit, Carroll, Sakho.
SWANS: Fabiański, Naughton, Fernández, Mawson, Olsson, Cork (Montero 64) Carroll (Llorente h/t), Fer, Routledge (Narsingh h/t), Sigurdsson, Ayew J. Unused subs: Nordfeldt, Amat, Ki, Kingsley.
Booked: Noble (38), Kouyaté (44), Lanzini (56), Fernández (77), Ayew (81), Randolph (90+3).
Referee: Kevin Friend.