|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Diafra Sakho hits West Ham’s winner in basement battle against Swansea
Jacob Steinberg at the London Stadium
Date Published Saturday 30 September 2017 17.14 BST
As the minutes ticked away at the London Stadium and the mood in the stands became increasingly ugly, this started to feel like the afternoon when West Ham’s supporters finally turned on Slaven Bilic. They had not hesitated to make their displeasure clear at several points in a dreadful game, jeering whenever yet another tentative move ran out of steam, and there was outright dissent when the fourth official’s board showed Javier Hernández’s number instead of Andy Carroll’s. Bilic’s approval ratings were plummeting to dangerous lows as Diafra Sakho entered the fray with 12 minutes left.
In the crowd’s eyes, the manager affectionately known as Super Slav had lost the plot. He was plain old Slav at that point, a man effectively writing his own P45. But football has the potential to make fools of us all. In the 90th minute, all that anger disappeared when Bilic watched two of his substitutes combine for a precious, tension-busting goal. In an ironic twist, it was Sakho, the man who faced disciplinary action after trying to engineer a transfer to Rennes in the summer, who broke Swansea City’s stubborn resistance by meeting Arthur Masuaku’s cross with a decisive finish that might just have kept Bilic in a job.
In those circumstances, Bilic could have been forgiven for crowing about a tactical masterstroke. Instead, ever the gentleman, he was the master of diplomacy. “The fans want the best for the club, they are very demanding,” he said. “I would rather take the decision and risk the booing than do nothing.”
Perhaps that magnanimity stemmed from Bilic’s awareness that West Ham had got away with one. The win lifted them to 15th, a jump of three places, and pushed Swansea into the bottom three, but Bilic admitted that his team’s performance merited criticism. For all that Sakho’s dramatic intervention sparked an outpouring of relief, it also masked a multitude of flaws.
This strange, lopsided muddle of a stadium felt even quieter than usual for much of a soporific first half. Bilic picked an attacking team and used a straightforward 4-4-2 system, with Carroll and Hernández forming a classic little and large partnership up front. The intent was obvious: despite showing all the mobility of the ArcelorMittal Orbit structure outside the ground during his wretched substitute appearance against Tottenham last weekend, Carroll has been the scourge of Swansea in the past and West Ham tried to make a fast, physical start, almost taking an early lead when Michail Antonio tested Lukasz Fabianski with a bouncing volley from Aaron Cresswell’s deep cross.
West Ham’s threat soon subsided, however. “The pressure was on the players,” Bilic said as he explained why his team’s urgency disappeared. They began to look painfully bereft of confidence and cohesion.
Swansea exerted control, outnumbering their hosts in midfield. The 35-year-old Leon Britton brought composure on his return to the side and Renato Sanches offered tantalising hints of his talent.
Swansea’s stylish passing caught the eye, but it was largely restricted to unthreatening areas. It was clear to see why they have scored three goals in seven matches. Wilfried Bony, who went off at half-time with a tight hamstring, forced Joe Hart to make a flying save with a powerful drive from 25 yards and Martin Olsson curled a shot just wide in the second half, but that was it.
Paul Clement was unimpressed with Bony, Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew. “I am concerned. I would have expected better in terms of points and performances,” Swansea’s manager said. “Good strikers carve out opportunities for themselves.”
Having kept three consecutive clean sheets on the road, however, Swansea backed themselves to absorb West Ham’s directionless pressure. Bilic turned to Manuel Lanzini just after the hour. The crowd were pleased to see the Argentinian back from a knee injury, but optimism soon gave way to rancour when Hernández was withdrawn. The Mexican angrily shook his head as he sat on the bench.
But perhaps Bilic knew what he was doing. Masuaku made an impact on the left, crossing for Carroll to hook a shot against the woodwork. Out of nowhere, Swansea were rattled and when Masuaku drove in another cross, the sliding Sakho crashed the ball high past Fabianski. Bilic limps on, safe for now.
Dail Mail: MATCH FACTS, LIVE TABLE AND MATCHZONE
West Ham (4-2-3-1):
Hart 6.5; Zabaleta 6.5, Fonte 6.5, Reid 6.5, Cresswell 6; Kouyate 6, Noble 6 (Lanzini 62, 6); Antonio 6.5, Chicharito 5 (Sakho 78), Ayew 6 (Masuaku 78); Carroll 6.5
Subs not used: Adrian, Byram, Ogbonna, Rice
Booked: Kouyate, Carroll, Sakho
Fabianksi 6.5; Naughton 6, Fernandez 7, Mawson 6.5, Olsson 6.5 (Clucas 87); Britton 6 (Roque Mesa 69); Sanches 6.5, Ayew 6.5, Carroll 7; Abraham 5, Bony 5 (Fer 46)
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Rangel, Narsingh
Booked: Sanches, Britton
Ref: Roger East
MOM: Arthur Masuaku