Wednesday, 2nd February 2011
A first half of breathtaking, attacking football - combined with a backs-to-the-wall second - was the foundation for United's second away win of the season, which lifts them into 18th place in tonight's Premier League and level on points with 17th placed Birmingham.
Victor Obinna was the star of the show for the second successive game, scoring a brace to add to his three against Nottingham Forest. With Robbie Keane grabbing his first goal for the club on his debut inbetween West Ham had the game won by half time.
At least, almost any other club would have... but with Avram Grant's side, you just never know what's around the corner given their recent propensity to leak goals at the most inopportune moments.
Happily that wasn't to be the case tonight as a defence, superbly marshalled by the hastily-improving James Tomkins withstood everything the Tangerines could throw at them (barring the odd jitter).
That rearguard action was even more impressive given the absence of captain Matthew Upson, who was replaced on the night by Danny Gabbidon - who was then replaced by Winston Reid after only 33 minutes, having pulled a hamstring.
But such was the efficiency of West Ham's attacks that the defence enjoyed a two goal cushion throughout the second half - a lead that started with Victor Obinna's opening goal on 24 minites.
Having received the ball wide on the left the Nigerian weaved into the box before unleashing a fierce drive that slipped under the legs of 'keeper Richard Kingson, who committed the cardinal sin of being beaten at his near post.
For Obinna it was the second touch of luck in as many games - but there was nothing lucky about his second, which arrived just two minutes after Charlie Adam had brough the home side back into the game with a goal direct from a corner.
Picking the ball up on the perimeter of the centre circle, Obinna drove towards goal before unleashing a 30-yard thunderbolt that flew into the top right corner of the net.
That goal gave the Hammers a 3-1 lead at the break for inbetween Obinna's haul, Robbie Keane - making his debut in claret and blue - scored his first for West Ham with a cleverly taken goal; Keane showing the sort of guile that age never dampens and the kind that Grant's side have been missing since perhaps Craig Bellamy departed some three seasons ago.
Although the Hammers created a number of chances in the second half - most notably when Robbie Keane drew a smart save from Kingson having been played in by a quick Mark Noble free kick - most of the play was at the other end, with Tomkins imperious in defence.
But the only real scare for West Ham came when Neal Eardley crashed a 68th minute free kick against the crossbar with Rob Green rooted to the spot; West Ham having the luck when it was most needed, just as they did when beginning the Great Escape of 2006/07 at Blackburn with Carlos Tevez's goal-that-never-was.
With another 13 league matches still to play this season Avram Grant and his team will almost certainly need a little more luck if they're to avoid 'the dreaded drop' - although tonight's win will be a massive boost to a team looking, on the night, light years away from relegation material.
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Slow to react for the goal perhaps but withstood all else thrown at him. Nothing spectacular - for a change - but solid.
Stuck to his task well under pressure and rarely beaten on the flank.
His best performance since seeing the light and moving to east London. Held the left side well even when doubled-up against.
So assured and composed at the heart of the defence, (the real) JT looked a player beyond his years. Man of the Match.
Looked a little out of sorts before the hamstring did for him.
Ankle-snapping, 180-degree turning, game influencing, yellow-carded ... it's Scott Parker.
Not his most notable performance of late but a solid one nonetheless.
Little end product of note but a workmanlike performance in which defensive duties were as important as his forays down the right wing.
Five goals in two games can't be sniffed at - and his second was an instant Goal of the Season contender.
His knockdown led to the crucial second but once again it was at defensive set-pieces that he provided his most important contributions. Excluding Adams' goal that he made a complete hash of, naturally.
The much-anticipated debut - and he didn't disappoint. Last year Ilan scored four goals that were enough to keep West Ham up - on this evidence, yer man will go even better.
(Replaced Gabbidon, 33 mins) Still a novice at this level, the young New Zealander coped admirably in the face of a second half onslaught. Experience like this will do him no harm at all.
Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Obinna, 83 mins) Replaced Obinna as the Nigerian began to tire badly. Harried and chased, the perfect man for the job.
(Replaced Keane, 84 mins) A big lump chucked in to deal with subs Harewood and Beattie. Nothing pretty (apart from his flowing locks perhaps) but he did what he had to do in those frantic, final few minutes.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Stuart Atwell.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Wayne Bridge, James Tomkins, Danny Gabbidon, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Gary O'Neill, Victor Obinna, Frederic Piquionne, Robbie Keane.
Goals: Victor Obinna 24 Robbie Keane 37 Victor Obinna 44 .
Booked: Scott Parker 59 .
Sent off: None.
Kingson, Eardley, Baptiste, Cathcart, Carney, Reid, Vaughan, Adam, Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell, Varney.
Substitutes: Evatt (Cathcart 46), Harewood (Reid 60), Beattie (Varney 61).
Subs not used: Rachubka, Southern, Grandin, Puncheon.
Goals: Adam (42).
Booked: Parker (59).
Sent Off: None.