Bilic gets birthday present as Irons tame the Terriers

AFP and Reuters, LONDON

Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - Page 16

Pedro Obiang and Andre Ayew scored on Monday to give West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic the perfect 49th birthday present as the Irons beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 in the English Premier League.

Obiang got the opener via an enormous deflection and Bilic then pumped the air in relief as much as delight when Ghanaian star Ayew pounced to add the second as West Ham claimed their first points of the season.

Defeat to Huddersfield would have left the charismatic Croat in real danger of becoming the second managerial casualty of the season, after Frank de Boer was fired by pointless Crystal Palace earlier in the day.

“We started with three away games [until the London Stadium was readapted after the World Athletics Championships] and three defeats, and this was a must-win game,” Bilic told Sky Sports. “I feel the pressure for a whole year now. It is maybe not logical for me to be under pressure after three games, but it is modern football. It is my birthday today and this is a great, great present for me.”

For Huddersfield it was their first reverse — and the first goals they had conceded — of what has been an impressive start to life among the elite.

A match big on commitment, but poor in quality had seen West Ham, with Andy Carroll back in attack after a thigh injury, go close twice in a first half they dominated.

Mexican striker Javier Hernandez was denied by the crossbar, while Jonas Loessl got down to smother the ball on the line from a James Collins header after 22 minutes.

However, the hosts deservedly went ahead 18 minutes from time with a piece of luck that had deserted them in their previous three league games.

Obiang’s shot looked to be going wide, but took a significant deflection off Mathias Jorgensen and gave Loessl no chance, the goalkeeper desperately trying to make up ground, but left flailing at the ball.

There was no luck involved in the second as Ayew, who had been sent on as a substitute, took advantage of a Huddersfield defender failing to clear the ball from a corner and tucked it away.

Meanwhile, former Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce ruled himself out of a return to Selhurst Park following De Boer’s sacking just four games into the season.

Allardyce, who steered Palace away from relegation last season before resigning in May, confirmed he spoke to club chairman Steve Parish, but said he was “not ready” to return.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a manager position, I am enjoying my life too much,” Allardyce told Sky Sports. “I spoke to Steve [Parish] late this afternoon and said that for me, I wouldn’t be ready to come back. He didn’t offer me the job, he just asked me: ‘What are your thoughts?’ I told him that at this moment in time, I wouldn’t want to go back in.”

According to British media, former England boss Roy Hodgson is set to replace De Boer before the weekend.