Blackburn Rovers 1-2 West Ham United
Saturday, 17th March 2007
by Graeme Howlett
West Ham United are off the bottom of the Premiership after they recorded their first away win of the season at Ewood Park.Alan Curbishley's team went into today's game as the last remaining club in all four divisions still to win away from home.
And for all but the final 20 minutes of the game it looked as if that record was safe. Safe it was, until two hotly-disputed goals in the space of four minutes turned the tables in the Hammers' favour.
Centre-half Christopher Samba had given Rovers the lead just two minutes into the second period following a goal-less first half.
James Collins was guilty of losing his man on a corner (albeit with the help of Marlon Harewood, who blocked Collins' run) to allow Samba to nod home.
The goal served to give the home side added impetus, and at that stage the Hammers looked ragged. Defeat seemed inevitable until Lady Luck - a stranger to East London this season - smiled upon Carlos Tevez after the striker had been felled in the penalty box by what seemed a reasonably innocuous challenge.
However referee Howard Webb was convinced enough to point to the spot - and thankfully Alan Curbishley was wise enough to this time ask the Argentinian to step forward. With little hesitation Tevez stroked the ball into the bottom right-hand corner to pull United level.
Blackburn were incensed by the goal - no doubt by the decision to award the spot-kick, although possibly also at their failure to have previously killed off a game that was there for the taking. However if they were angry at that, they were to be positively outraged at the decision which led to the winning goal.
A resulting corner for United led to a goalmouth scramble, and Bobby Zamora - who once again proved hugely influential as a late substitute - stabbed the ball goalwards. However the shot struck Carlos Tevez, standing on the line, and rebounded away from goal.
Tevez had the temerity to claim a goal - as did his team mates when they realised it might just be worth a shout after all - and to the amazement of all, linesman Divine (intervention?) signalled for a goal. Referee Webb will no doubt claim that he had little choice but to take the word of his colleague, and blew to confirm the decision.
Blackburn were amazed - West Ham United's players equally so - but who can say the Hammers didn't deserve a bit of outrageous good fortune after everything this year? Webb will feel hugely embarrased when he gets to see a replay, and if Zamora's 'goal' fails to re-ignite up the debate about goal-line technology, nothing will.
But Alan Curbishley will take his breaks any way they come at the moment, and the three points - which the Hammers held on to with comparative ease following Zamora's winner - lifts them off the bottom of the Premiership tonight, and two points closer to safety.
Of course, survival is still extremely unlikely with just eight games of the season remaining, and three of those against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
But a win over Middlesbrough in United's next game on the final day of the month could just have the likes of Sheffield United and Wigan looking over their shoulders once more - and leave us poor supporters hanging on tenterhooks once again at the climax to a most extraordinary season.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
Coped fairly well with everything that was thrown at him - and did enough to put off Pedersen when a goal looked on the cards.
A decent showing on the return to his former club. A target for the home fans throughout the game, the big Aussie had the last laugh - and more importantly, lasted a full 90 minutes.
Tenacious in the tackle as always, although you're never truly convinced that he looks completely comfortable at this level.
Still one or two questions over his overall defending but a fair performance. Held a high line well along side Collins.
Despite being responsible for losing his marker for the goal, Collins was probably the pick of the defenders on show - despite some poor distribution at times. If only he could stay fit ...
One game too many perhaps as the youngster was out-fought and out-thought by Blackburn's veteran wily Turk. Rightly substituted today, but he's done enough in recent weeks to show he should be in with a shout.
There was less verbal and a lot more commitment from NRC today, who played a vital part in the equalising goal. Maybe it was the threat of losing the captaincy? Whatever, it worked.
Not in the game at all, huffed and puffed and - dare one say it - looked as if his days are numbered.
Although there was more effort than perhaps in recent weeks the end product is still missing. You would like to see him gamble a little more when attacking his full-back; however on second thoughts ...
Blackburn defenders flocked to him like flies round ... well, you know ... everytime he had the ball at his feet - yet he won a penalty and then had the audacity to claim the second. Bravo, Carlitos.
Very, very disappointing. Obviously Marlon is a huge confidence player, but how on earth do you turn this kind of form around? Missing a first-half sitter when set up by Tevez appeared to render him useless thereafter.
(Replaced Noble, 45) A good substitution by Caurbishley that ultimately paid dividends. Offered far more than Noble had previously.
(Replaced Harewood, 55) For the second consecutive game Zamora came on and made a difference. Given Harewood's form Bobby must be a candidate; whether he can be as imposing from the start remains to be seen.
Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Tevez, 83) Barely featured although it was good to see him on the field again. Hopefully he can now start repaying some of the ??5m we paid for him.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Carlos Tevez 71 Bobby Zamora 75 .
Booked: Lee Bowyer 20 Nigel Reo-Coker 41 Bobby Zamora 70 Anton Ferdinand 81 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Blackburn Rovers: Friedel, Warnock, Khizanishvili, Samba, Dunn, Tugay, Pedersen, Emerton, Bentley, Derbyshire, McCarthy..
Subs not used: Brown, Henchoz, Gallagher..
Goals: Samba (47)..
Booked: Bentley (18), Emerton (70), Roberts (73), Dunn (76)..
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez.