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African ace eases pressure on West Ham boss Bilic

HERO: Diafra Sakho (centre) with his team mates

DIAFRA SAKHO’s late winner broke Swansea’s resistance and temporarily lifted the pressure on West Ham manager Slaven Bilic's shoulders.

There were moments of normal time remaining when the Senegalese substitute applied the finishing touch to Arthur Masuaku’s superb cross to lift West Ham out of the relegation zone, dump their opponents back into it, and perhaps even preserve Bilic’s job in the short term. And to think Sakho has come close to departing these past two summers.

Masuaku was another substitute who helped turn this game in favour of West Ham and Bilic must take some credit, particularly when his decision to hook Javier Hernandez on 77 minutes was greeted with howls of derision from the stands.

Yet when Sakho slammed the ball into the roof of Lukasz Fabianski’s net for his first Premier League goal in 10 months, he delivered a welcome reminder to West Ham fans of the predatory instincts that endeared him to the Upton Park faithful during the Sam Allardyce era before a series of injuries halted his progress.

That moment was at odds with the vast bulk of this match, which did much to illustrate why these clubs currently find themselves so imperilled.

West Ham’s players huffed and puffed, particularly as the match wore on, and few would have denied Swansea a point and a fourth clean sheet of the season, even if it had had dire consequences for Bilic.

For his part, the Croatian told journalists in the aftermath that he is sick on discussing his future but the questions are unlikely to fade any time soon.

The east Londoners barely saw the ball in the first period, not that Swansea’s metronomic passing led down many productive avenues.

Paul Clement had spoken before the game about his side adopting a positive approach but a fine Wilfried Bony strike aside, which saw Joe Hart parry away their only shot on target, the Swans failed to create the chances to embroider their midfield passing patterns. Renato Sanches’ main contribution was a booking for a studs-up challenge on Aaron Cresswell.

Swansea had switched to a back four when a goal down at home to Watford last weekend and Clement retained that formation here, with Martin Olsson in particular shining at left-back. His combinations with Jordan Ayew - who was facing his brother Andre across the park - and Tom Carroll were a rare first half highlight.

The local fans booed whenever their team circulated the ball back to Hart and Pablo Zabaleta was visibly frustrated by his team’s lack of imagination. Yet West Ham imposed themselves with greater vigour after the break and there were cheers of jubilation as Manuel Lanzini, recovered from a knee injury, emerged from the bench to put in a productive half hour shift as the hosts rallied.

For all that, doubts remain about Bilic and his team. Andy Carroll, who struck the Swansea crossbar late on, was rarely on the same wavelength as Hernandez. Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate were overrun at times in the centre but still the hosts found the quality to get the job done.

Clement afterwards said he felt hard done by, yet the Swans have plundered just three goals from seven Premier League games and defeat here pushed them into the relegation zone on goal difference.

Tricky times undoubtedly lie ahead for both sides.

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