Jordan Henderson pushed West Ham back to the bottom of the Premier League as the Sunderland midfielder’s goal clinched a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
The Hammers had moved up into 19th place without playing on Saturday after Wolves’ heavy defeat at Blackburn, but Henderson’s first-half winner ensured Avram Grant’s team finished the weekend back where they started.
Henderson’s strike also secured a first win in three matches, which lifted Sunderland into seventh place.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce hailed Henderson, but said the youngster still has room for improvement with his finishing.
Grant remains confident West Ham can stay up, saying: “I think we have a very good squad to stay up. We showed that in our last two games.”
Grant made three changes to the side that dumped Manchester United out of the League Cup in midweek as Danny Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer and Scott Parker returned, but his established stars were unable to repeat that shock result.
West Ham had a narrow escape when Luis Boa Morte was guilty of a two-footed tackle on Kieran Richardson, which could have earned a red card, but only brought a booking from referee Martin Atkinson.
Bruce’s men dominated the early stages and Robert Green was called into action for the first time when Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck combined to set up Lee -Cattermole, whose drive was well held by the Hammers goalkeeper.
Green was in the right place again to keep out Bent’s dipping effort five minutes later, but there was nothing he could do to keep the home side out as Henderson struck in the 34th minute.
Asamoah Gyan broke into space down the right and pulled the ball square for England midfielder Henderson, who deftly side-footed it past the goalkeeper to open the scoring with his first goal of the season.
It could have been 2-0 within two minutes when Welbeck picked up possession on the left and cut inside before curling in a shot which clipped the top of the crossbar.
The visitors went close early in the second half when Carlton Cole turned on Victor Obinna’s pass as John Mensah slipped and blasted a low left-foot drive just wide of the far post.
Boa Morte was wasteful when Cole’s cross arrived at his feet beyond the far post four minutes later.
But Sunderland rediscovered their rhythm and, after Welbeck’s shot had been blocked by James Tomkins, Richardson tested Green with a powerful long-range strike.
Green had to be at his best to parry Gyan’s driven shot after he surged clear of Matthew Upson.
West Ham’s last chance for a draw came 11 minutes from time when Obinna’s shot through a crowded penalty area clipped the outside of a post.
Welbeck should have made sure of the points when Steed -Malbranque’s shot came back off Green, but the midfielder’s side-footed effort was blocked by Tomkins.
League leaders Borussia Dortmund took a big step toward their first Bundesliga title in nine years on Sunday as a 2-0 win over Nuremberg extended their lead at the top to 10 points.
In heavy snow, goals either side of half-time by Germany defender Mats Hummels and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski saw Dortmund, whose last league title came in 2002, pick up their 13th win of the season from 15 matches.
It leaves them on 40 points with a massive goal advantage, while second-placed Mainz are on 30 points, but coach Jurgen Klopp is keeping his young team’s feet on the ground.
However, Klopp, 43, could not resist a dig at defending champions Bayern Munich, who have come to expect the Bundesliga title as their right having won 22 titles.
Bayern are now 17 points behind the leaders and their coach Louis van Gaal said his side may have already lost the title — five months before the end of the season. Second-placed Mainz blew their chance to close the gap on Saturday as they suffered their fourth defeat in their last six games when they were beaten 2-1 by Eintracht Frankfurt.
Van Gaal says Mainz’s defeat has only served to strengthen Dortmund’s position.
“Lots might still happen, but I think [Dortmund] are too far ahead,” van Gaal said after his Bavarian giants went down 2-0 at Schalke 04 to leave them seventh in the table. “We had to win this match to put the pressure on Dortmund. But with us and [second-placed] Mainz losing, Dortmund aren’t feeling any pressure at all.”
Leverkusen stay third as goals by Patrick Helmes, Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta and defender Stefan Reinartz sealed Sunday’s win which leaves them just a point behind Mainz.
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