West Ham came from behind for the third successive match last weekend, doing enough to claim a hard earned point away at Sunderland.
The impressive Stewart Downing’s third goal of the season cancelled out a dubious Jordi Gomez penalty, a decision that infuriated manager Sam Allardyce. He thought Adam Johnson had dived, but fortunately for the Hammers they had enough to force their way back into the match.
West Ham have now lost only one of their last ten matches and could well have made it four wins on the spin at the Stadium of Light, if they were more clinical in the final third. Nevertheless, it was a valuable point gained and the result means the East London outfit still occupy a Champions League spot as we approach the half-way point of the campaign.
Here we take a look at five things we learned from the match.
1. HAMMERS HAVE IMPRESSIVE BACKBONE
West Ham won their last two matches – against Swansea and West Brom – from a losing position but against a resilient and organised Sunderland it proved too big of an ask.
The Hammers responded brilliantly to what they thought was an unjust penalty decision by equalising just seven minutes later, demonstrating once again that they’re a formidable outfit.
Last campaign they may have lost this match. Decisions weren’t going their way and the home side set their stool out, but it’s a testament to this team’s character that they clawed their way back into it and created enough opportunities to win the match in the end.
2. Conceding early is a trait that needs to be cut out
It shouldn’t have been a penalty and if Phil Dowd booked Johnson for diving instead of pointing to the spot the match could have been a completely different story. He did, however, and once again the Hammers task was made doubly hard.
While it’s easy to blame the referee, West Have have only had three clean sheets all season. This brings to light just how good they’ve been at the other end, as they continue to get points on the board and remain two points clear in fourth place.
If they want to remain in this unprecedented position, though, they will need to tighten things up at the back.
3. REID IS STILL A FORMIDABLE FORCE
Winston Reid’s form and commitment has been questioned this season, but he was a rock during the match and reminded us of his importance to this West Ham side.
Sunderland were limited to very few chances and Reid dealt with everything that came his way. If he is to be off in January, which doesn’t look likely, it would be a big blow to the club’s European ambition.
4. DOWNING CONTINUES TO DELIVER
Another game, another brilliant Downing performance. The 30-year-old’s consistency this season has been superb and he capped off a fine display with a typical Downing-like goal. Cutting in from the right, skipping past a defender before shooting from 20 yards out – the effort took a deflection off of Gomez – before nestling in the bottom corner.
Downing also created five chances during the match, made 13 crosses and completed 33/38 of his passes. He is playing at an exceptional level and Allardyce will hope he continues in this manner throughout the whole campaign.
5. WEST HAM STILL PLAYING TO WIN
The Irons has 20 shots throughout the match and never looked like settling for a point. This side has the belief and ability to go out and win against anyone at the moment and if they were more clinical they would have comfortably claimed the three points.
Sunderland were very compact in the second period of the game but West Ham still created numerous opportunities, although Andy Carroll wasn’t as lethal as he was against Swansea and Diafra Sakho was unusually quiet.
On another day this would have been a relatively easy victory for the Hammers. It's still a good point, though, especially if they can follow it up with another three against Leicester City next weekend.