Grant Discovers Winning Formula Thanks to Victor
Byline: Sunderland 1 West Ham 2 By COLIN YOUNG
SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce refused to name a weakened team in his bid to end the club's 37-year wait for silverware, but still presided over an embarrassing defeat to the Premier League's bottom side West Ham last night.
Goals from Frederic Piquionne and Victor Obinna sank sorry Sunderland but it was Hammers captain Scott Parker who inspired Avram Grant's side to their first away win since the opening day of last season at Wolves.
Although it is League points Grant needs to relieve the pressure, this unexpected win and progress to the fourth round will be welcome for the former Chelsea boss, who returned to the dug-out after his self-imposed absence on religious grounds from Stoke last Saturday.
But the defeat was a major blow for Bruce, who saw progress in a cup as vital in his battle to win over Sunderland supporters. His side seriously lacked inspiration in front of just 21,907 fans, even though record signing Asamoah Gyan marked his first start with his second goal for the club.
Bruce doubtless had some explaining to do to the fringe players who may have been expecting a start. Bolo Zenden and Andy Reid, in particular, will feel aggrieved they were not given their opportunity having played a part in the second-round win over Colchester. But Bruce stuck with four of the five midfielders who started against Arsenal, with Steed Malbranque making way for Gyan, who partnered Darren Bent for the first time.
Grant made seven changes from the side which drew at Stoke, with Carlton Cole among the players he was prepared to leave on the bench to preserve his squad for Saturday's derby at home to Tottenham.
Bruce was the unhappier of the managers in the early minutes and his reconciled relationship with former Hammer Anton Ferdinand was put to the test when Obinna and Piquionne were given the room to shoot.
Although all three efforts -- two from Obinna, the other from Piquionne -- flew wildly and embarrassingly wide of Simon Mignolet's goal, there was enough threat to produce a frank exchange of views between Bruce and his centre half.
The resultant finger-pointing suggested the problem lay in the Sunderland midfield, according to Ferdinand at least, but his night was to end prematurely in the 40th minute when he was forced off with a hamstring injury. …