(AFP) – Oct 21, 2007
LONDON (AFP) — West Ham rode their luck to beat Sunderland 3-1 on Sunday thanks in large part to a freak own goal by goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
A hard-fought match looked to be turning in Sunderland's favour when Kenwyne Jones cancelled out Carlton Cole's first half strike.
Then, with time running out at Upton Park, Nolberto Solano's shot struck a post and then rebounded into the net off Gordon, who was lying prone after his attempted save.
Alan Curbishley and his players won't care how the win came as they ended a run of three league defeats.
But it was cruel in the extreme on Sunderland, who were the better side after Jones's goal, but saw Craig Bellamy rub salt into their wounds with a stoppage time strike to seal the points.
Roy Keane's side have now gone four matches without a win and are in danger of sinking into the relegation zone.
Curbishley admitted the result was harsh on Sunderland.
"I think it flattered us but we'll take that because there will be another time when we have the lion's share of the game and come out with nothing," he told Sky Sports.
"We were stunned by their goal. They will be disappointed they didn't take anything from it, but I've told the players to enjoy it because any win is important."
Keane was more disappointed by his side's defending than the fluke own goal.
He said: "To say I'm annoyed would be an understatement. We deserved something from the game but we gave away a couple of sloppy goals and were punished.
"That's what the Premier League is all about. Once we equalised the next goal was going to be massive and unfortunately they got it."
Sunderland's fairytale rise under Keane has been interrupted by a harsh dose of reality this season. This was another painful lesson.
They arrived in London's East End with only one win in their last eight league games, but should have taken the lead in the first minute.
Jones rose well to meet Ross Wallace's corner but the Trinidad striker's header failed to test Robert Green.
West Ham quickly set about making Sunderland pay for that miss.
There appeared to be little danger when George McCartney scampered down the left flank in the ninth minute, but the former Sunderland left-back's deflected cross caught the visiting defence off-guard.
With Danny Collins and Danny Higginbotham slow to react as the ball looped off Roy O'Donovan, Cole had space to direct a header past Gordon despite mistiming his jump.
Mark Noble gave Sunderland a chance when he hit a careless backpass towards Jones. The midfielder was bailed out by Green, who plunged to his right to turn away the shot for a corner.
West Ham found it hard to break through Sunderland's massed ranks after Cole's goal. Matt Etherington tried with a shot that flashed wide before Lee Bowyer headed tamely over.
Keane sent on Anthony Stokes and Michael Chopra at half-time to try to pep up his attack and was rewarded within minutes.
Reinvigorated by Keane's bold move, Sunderland pushed forward and won a corner in the 52nd minute.
Grant Leadbitter curled over the set-piece and Jones leapt above Matthew Upson to direct a powerful header past Green before celebrating with his trademark back-flips.
Suddenly Sunderland were the aggressors. Leadbitter must have thought he had scored when he burst through, but Green brilliantly tipped his shot onto a post.
Jones was completely dominating against Upson and Danny Gabbidon. The West Ham centre-backs were standing off him again as he glanced Greg Halford's cross narrowly wide.
Now it was Curbishley's turn to influence the match with a substitution as he put on Solano for his debut.
In the 78th minute, Luis Boa Morte sent over a low cross that should have been cleared by Nyron Nosworthy. Instead the defender's miskick ran to Solano, whose low shot cannoned off a post before hitting Gordon and rebounded back into the net.
It was rough justice for Gordon, Britain's most expensive keeper, and his Sunderland team. But Bellamy showed no mercy, putting the result beyond doubt with a close-range finish in stoppage time.
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