Monday, 20th March 2006
Ashton struck in the 41st and 69th minutes to earn the Hammers a precious win in tonight's FA Cup quarter-final tie at Manchester City.
West Ham - who went into the game minus Lionel Scaloni (dropped) and Anton Ferdinand (injured) but with Shaka Hislop and Matthew Etherington returning from injury - rarely threatened the City goal in a somewhat drab first half, although the home side - themselves missing key striker Georgious Samaras - created precious few goalscoring opportunities themselves.
City's best chance of the half arrived minutes before Ashton gave the Hammers the lead; Shaka Hislop fumbled a Reina cross and Musampa's overhead kick was goalbound before Paul Konchesky intervened to head off the line.
The opening goal finally arrived just four minutes ahead of the break - and it proved to be well worth waiting for. A wonderful one-touch move between Ashton, Harewood and Etherington on the edge of the City box left Ashton wide left of David James' goal. The 22-year-old striker took one touch further to his left before beating former-Hammer James to his near post with a low drive.
The goal itself was more than worthy of detailed post-match discussion, but the game's major talking-point occured just ten minutes into the second period when City midfielder Sun Jihai was sent off after clashing with West Ham's Matthew Etherington on the touchline. The two collided as the ball ran out of play and the City man took a rash swipe at Etherington - seemingly out of frustration, and certainly not with any great spite.
And although the palm of the Chinese midfielder's hand made just the slightest of contact with the side of Etherington's head referee Howard Webb deemed it an offence serious enough to warrant an instant red card - much to the dismay of the home crowd, and surprise of all players.
It was, of course, great news for the Hammers - although even the most biased onlooker couldn't have failed to feel just a little sympathy for what was an extremely harsh decision.
With the game opening up, the Hammers took advantage of the extra man midway through the second-half - and City only have themselves to blame. Christian Dailly went down under a heavy challenge deep in the City half and remained prone on the ground, but City somewhat unsportingly refused to put the ball out of play.
As they attacked, Nigel Reo-Coker won the ball deep in Hammers territory and set forward. After a long run he found Yossi Benayoun to his right and the little Israeli sent the perfect low cross in for Ashton to add his and West Ham's second.
So 2-0 up and facing only ten men the Hammers should have been home and dry - but Kiki Musampa had other ideas when he blasted home a volley from 20 yards into Shaka Hislop's bottom right-hand corner eight minutes from the end of normal time.
The goal prompted a furious onslaught from the home side as they searched for an unlikely equaliser in the dying minutes, but the Hammers remained resolute and clung on to book their first FA Cup semi-final appearance since 1991.
Meanwhile, Alan Pardew, who came in for much criticism for his team selection policy at home to Portsmouth on Saturday will no doubt be left feeling just a little vindicated after this, the latest win in what is turning into quite an extraordinary season for the Hammers.
The draw for the semi finals with be made on Friday, 24 March. The remaining quarter-final ties take place tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.
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Not a great deal to do overall and despite one or two rickets it was a fairly accomplished performance.
Once again targeted by an opposition winger, he struggled against City's Reina. Sustained what could be a lengthy injury in a challenge which eventually led to West Ham's second goal.
Sensibly opted for 'safety first' at all times, although he gave added impetus to our breaks with some good bursts down the left flank.
Another assured performance from the Welsh wonder.
Brought in as a last minute replacement for the injured Anton Ferdinand the rarely used centre-half was outstanding, making several important challenges when it mattered.
Another strong effort from a man rapidly becoming one of the most vital cogs in West Ham's wheel.
Had a major hand in the seond goal but his most important contribution was silencing City's biggest threat, midfielder Joey Barton. Tough to call a MOTM in a game like this but NRC just edges it.
Probably did more work in his own half than actually hurting the opposition but that was what was required on a night that was always going to require a great deal of defensive work. The delivery for Ashton's second goal was sublime.
More kidology from Pardew with the announcement at the weekend that Etherington was unfit? Who knows, but a performance full of determination and effort (at both ends of the pitch) suggested that that idea may have legs.
Put himself about as usual but never really looked close to adding to his impressive goal tally.
Made a worthy contribution in all areas of the pitch, the two goals were merely the icing on the cake. The watching England manager can't have failed to be impressed.
(Replaced Dailly, 70) Surprisingly dropped to the bench tonight but a more than able replacement for the injured Scot.
(Replaced Reo-Coker 82) Came on to see out the final few minutes.
(Replaced Ashton, 105) As per Fletcher.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.
West Ham United
Shaka Hislop, Christian Dailly, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Dean Ashton.
Goals: Dean Ashton 41 Dean Ashton 69 .
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 79 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
James, Jordan, Richards, Dunn, Distin, Jihai, Barton, Jordan, Musampa, Riera, Vassell, Wright-Phillips.
Substitutes: Sommeil (Jordan 23), Croft (Wright-Phillips 73), Ireland (Barton 79).
Subs not used: Weaver, Miller.
Goals: Musampa (81).
Booked: Riera (35).
Sent Off: Jihai (56).