Sunderland and West Ham played out a frenetic match, where poor decisions all round forged a haphazard 2-2 draw.
Sunderland were piping Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights around the Stadium of Light before kick off. It is their usual pre-match accompaniment, but, at the moment, it was the perfect aural illustration of the booming, tar-black cloud that has hung over this club for some years, now reaching a crescendo, a buffeting maelstrom of haplessness on and off the field, of a cavalcade of managers entering and exiting, of a team that needs an annual cull of toxic characters. If it wasn’t intentional, it was certainly fitting.
But, as it turned out, the soundtrack acted more like a rumbling war-cry. Thanks, in part, to some generosity from West Ham, Sunderland took control of the match, scoring twice in the opening half hour. West Ham were limp and lank, backing off timidly as the Sunderland attackers – transformed from the impotent husks they have been lately into rocket-propelled raiders – charged at them. As Dick Advocaat watched on, almost disappointed that he won’t get to quit on the back of another insipid display, his side rocked highest scoring team in the division back on their heels.
It wouldn’t last though, as Carl Jenkinson pulled a goal back for the Hammers right on half time. Then, after Jeremain Lens was sent off in highly damaging fashion, West Ham equalised, after Manuel Lanzini’s shot was palmed down by Costel Pantilimon into the path of Dimitri Payet. 2-2 it ended, with Sunderland scrambling to avoid a defeat, and the taste left in the home fans’ mouths was decidedly bitter. West Ham won’t be much happier, even though they clawed their way to a point away from home. Once again, they dug a pit for themselves to clamber out of against a side below them on the table.