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Published: 14:44 | 27/2/16

Antonio strike downs Sunderland

Victory lifts West Ham up to fifth

West Ham moved up to fifth place in the Barclays Premier League with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over a battling Sunderland side at Upton Park.

Michail Antonio scored the only goal of the game with a superb finish into the bottom corner on the half hour and, although Sunderland fought back gamely after the break, they couldn't find an equaliser and remain deep in the relegation mire.

It was a quiet opening from both sides, with neither goalkeeper called into action in the opening minutes.

But Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone had to produce a superb save on 19 minutes to tip Mark Noble's curling strike onto the crossbar after good work by Manuel Lanzini.

That seemed to spur the game into life and new signing Wahbi Khazri almost took advantage after Hammers goalkeeper Adrian had delayed his clearance.

The same player then brushed the top of the crossbar moments later with a curling free-kick from out wide.

But West Ham were ahead on the half hour mark when Antonio took advantage of a poor touch from Patrick van Aanholt wide out on the right before cutting inside and sending a low shot from a tight angle beyond Mannone into the far corner.

Antonio almost doubled the advantage five minutes before the break with a crisp volley from the edge of the area, but Mannone did well to tip the ball around the post for a corner.

The visitors had fought hard, but West Ham had looked more threatening and were deservedly in front at half-time.

Sunderland were almost level shortly after the restart when Khazri played in Jermain Defoe, but the former England striker couldn't get his shot on target.

The former West Ham player's blushes were spared by the linesman's raised flag, although replays showed he was onside.

The Black Cats continued to take the game to their hosts early in the second half and both Van Aanholt and Yann M'Vila were off target with decent opportunities.

Substitute Jack Rodwell was unlucky to see his effort ruled out for handball on 72 minutes after Adrian had brilliantly saved his first shot.

Andy Carroll, on for Emmanuel Emenike, rattled the Sunderland crossbar shortly afterwards with a close range volley after Sam Byram had headed Noble's cross back across goal.

Dimitri Payet then volleyed narrowly wide as, despite Sunderland's dominance, West Ham continued to carry a threat.

The Black Cats battled until the very end but couldn't find a way through as Sam Allardyce was condemned to yet another away defeat on on his first return to east London since leaving in the summer.

The result lifts West Ham up to fifth in the table for the time being at least with their highest ever Premier League points tally after 27 games.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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