Larsson eases Sunderland fears
Sunderland - Sunderland eased their relegation worries as Sebastian Larsson's stunning strike inspired a 3-0 win over West Ham at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Martin O'Neill's side moved six points clear of the bottom three after Larsson's superb long-range effort in the first half was followed by further goals from Adam Johnson and James McClean after the interval.
The victory was Sunderland's first in four matches in all competitions and lifted the lingering gloom on Wearside after an inconsistent first half of the season for the Black Cats.
West Ham are now just one point ahead of Sunderland after their fourth defeat in their last six league games.
Sunderland started in determined fashion and it took a good block by full-back Dan Potts to keep out Johnson's third-minute volley with David Vaughan steering the rebound wide.
But the hosts were ahead in the 12th minute when Johnson's right-wing cross was headed out by Alou Diarra to Larsson and the Swedish midfielder smashed an unstoppable left-foot shot high past Jussi Jaaskelainen from 25 yards.
Sunderland might have increased their lead with 26 minutes gone when Stephane Sessegnon carved his way through the Hammers' defence, but he stabbed his effort wide.
West ham boss Sam Allardyce attempted to spark his team into life by introducing Ricardo Vaz Te in place of Jack Collison at half-time, but his plan was torn apart within two minutes of the restart.
Sessegnon broke from his own half down the right before picking out the unmarked McClean on the opposite flank.
Jaaskelainen pulled off a fine one-handed save to deny the Republic of Ireland winger, but as Potts attempted to chest the ball back to his keeper, Steven Fletcher intervened to poke it towards Johnson, who dispatched it via the post into the unguarded net.
Sunderland kept pressing for the killer third goal and it arrived in the 74th minute when Sessegnon skipped into the box and scuffed a shot to the far post, where McClean slammed the ball home from a tight angle.