Cheikhou Kouyate scores only goal to down Swansea and earn Slaven Bilic some much-needed breathing room

Jon West
The Independent
It was a big three points for West Ham and their beleaguered boss: Getty
It was a big three points for West Ham and their beleaguered boss: Getty

Karren Brady, when she had finished posting pictures of Arsenal's impressive cheese board on social media, reminded us that "football, totally, is a results business". Well, West Ham's vice-chairman now has one but what does it mean?

Of course, the short-term implication is that now a five-game losing streak is at an end Slaven Bilic will not be sacked as West Ham manager. The Hammers are back to where they were a few weeks ago, eight points clear of the third-bottom side. Who are still Swansea, who made their managerial change gamble in January by bringing in Paul Clement. Both teams still have to play Sunderland and defeat for Hull at Manchester City was good news as well.

But will Bilic still be in the same job come the start of next season? Clement's prospects are actually probably brighter, even if Swansea go down. There are results and results in this business. Totally.

Bilic made only one change from the side that subsided at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night, with Andy Carroll dropping to the bench. That allowed Andre Ayew to play against a Swansea side containing younger brother Jordan. The Swans also had a Carroll, midfielder Tom, and each side had either a Fernandes or a Fernandez, a Nordtveit or a Nordfeldt either on from the start or waiting to come on.

The difference on the pitch turned out to be marginal too, with Cheikhou Kouyate's first Premier League goal of the season turning out to be enough for the London Stadium bubble machine to be switched on at long last in post-match celebration.

Fabianski stops the ball on the goal line to deny Snodgrass (Getty)
Fabianski stops the ball on the goal line to deny Snodgrass (Getty)

Michail Antonio, playing up front for the hosts, made a couple of early runs into the box that were stopped by defenders before Manuel Lanzini was brought down by Jordan Ayew 25 yards in front of goal. Lanzini's free-kick just cleared the crossbar.

Swansea seemed content to soak up and wait but needed goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the 20th minute to deny Robert Snodgrass. A glove was plonked on the Scot's header just in time to prevent all of the ball from crossing the line.

Lanzini had another go, from open play this time, but found too much elevation again and Fabianski than had to make another save, palming away Andre Ayew's effort.

Swansea nugmegged their way upfield on the counter to win a corner that Jordan Ayew tried to backheel home. West Ham blocked that but were almost caught when the younger Ayew's cross came within a whisker of finding Gylfi Sigurdsson in front of goal.

West Ham scored just before the half-time whistle (Getty)
West Ham scored just before the half-time whistle (Getty)

Antonio pulled up lame and was replaced by Jonathan Calleri five minutes before the break as Bilic's side prepared to defend a free-kick, conceded by Mark Noble on the edge of their box, at the time. Darren Randolph saved Sigurdsson's free-kick however and the half ended with West Ham in front. Kouyate played a one-two with Snodgrass and planted a low shot past Fabianski from 20 yards before white shirts could converge.

A half-time Swansea reshuffle saw diminutive midfielder Tom Carroll replaced by supertall target man Fernando Llorente, a statement of intent if ever there was one.

The first chance of the half, despatched into the side-neting by Sam Byram, was West Ham's but James Collins soon had to block at the other end to deny Luciano Narsingh, Swansea's other half-time addition.

Referee Kevin Friend, who had booked Kouyate for celebrating his goal with a cluster of fans, continued in killjoy mode by cautioning Lanzini for a dive in the box, though the Argentinian could have had no real complaints.

West Ham had last won at home in the league on January 14 (Getty)
West Ham had last won at home in the league on January 14 (Getty)

Swansea's final change was enforced as Jack Cork limped off for Jefferson Montero but the game remained one-paced, the tension and fear gripping both teams sapping it steadily in entertainment and quality levels. Lanzini had another go from another free-kick and cleared the Swansea crossbar once again.

The final 10 minutes stirred Swansea into action. Narsingh fired over on the hoof and James Collins had to hook away a cross that his goalkeeper had missed but Andre Ayew should have wrapped the game up at the other end with all the goal to aim at but allowed Fabianski to save.

Arthur Masuaka's wild clearance betrayed West Ham nerves after the enigmatis Calleri found the side-netting, but the hosts negotiated five minutes of added time in the end.


West Ham (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Byram, Fonte, Collins, Masuaku; Kouyate, Noble; Snodgrass (Feghouli 70), A Ayew (Fernandes 86), Lanzini; Antonio (Calleri 40). Subs (not used): Adrian, Nordtveit, A Carroll, Sakho.

Swansea (4-3-3): Fabianski; Naughton, Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson; Fer, Cork (Montero 65), T Carroll (Llorente 46); Sigurdsson, J Ayew, Routledge (Narsingh 46). Subs (not used): Nordfeldt, Amat, Ki, Kingsley.

Referee: Kevin Friend

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