West Ham United 2 Middlesbrough 0
Saturday, 31st March 2007
by Graeme Howlett
West Ham are back in the fight for survival after a comfortable 2-0 win against Middlesbrough at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.A goal each from Bobby Zamora and Carlos Tevez earned United another vital three points in their fight against relegation, and capped a solid performance from Alan Curbishley's charges.
Zamora - reinstated to the starting XI after some excellent recent cameos from the bench - scored his third goal in his last three games from close range after just two minutes to give the Hammers an early lead.
And Tevez scored the vital second in first half injury time when he too prodded home from close range. Like Zamora, it was his third goal in as many games, after going almost six months without a goal.
Gareth Southgate's Middlesbrough - who Alan Curbishley had criticised earlier in the week for failing to field a full-strength side against Manchester City - rarely threatened United keeper Rob Green; Mark Viduka's first-half free-kick from the edge of the box, which ended up somewhere around Row Z much to the amusement of the home support, probably summed up their game.
West Ham United had thrown away two goal leads against both Newcastle and Tottenham recently. However there was little threat of that happening this afternoon as they comfortably dealt with anything Middlesbrough threw at them; James Collins and George McCartney being particularly influential at the back.
In midfield, Mark Noble and Nigel Reo-Coker worked particularly hard to nullify any threat from Middlesbrough - whilst Carlos Tevez was enjoying another one of those afternoon's when he is simply a joy to watch.
Curbishley's decision to include Noble proved to be a particularly inspired choice, as the youngster's tenacious performance was one of a number of highlights for the oft-criticised manager.
Chairman Eggert Magnusson - when speaking to KUMB earlier in the week - had refused to accept that relegation was inevitable; after today, and last week at Blackburn, who knows - he may just have a point.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
Rarely called into action but dealt with the rare Middlesbrough forays forward with consumate ease.
Solid and determined. Excellent to see him a little less shackled and getting into advanced positions. But the biggest bonus of all is that he lasted 90 minutes.
Quite possibly his finest performance yet. Like Neill, he enjoyed getting into advanced positions. Defensively he was rock-solid, making a number of crucial challenges.
A good performance from Anton who appears to be getting back to his best. Made one mistake when he allowed Mark Viduka to wriggle free but that aside it was a competent effort.
Kept it simple throughout - any threat was instantly dismissed; text-book defending, you might say. He will retain his place in the side with more performances like it - if he can stay fit.
A brave decision by Curbishley's to include him again today after Noble chased shadows at Blackburn last weekend - but it proved to be a great call.
A good effort from the (reinstated) captain. Along with Noble he snuffed out the (considerable) 'Boro threat of Boateng. Went off towards the end to some much-deserved applause.
Still looking a little off the pace; got stuck in as per usual but didn't offer much of a threat.
A little more lively than in recent performances but not that much end-product to boast about. His work-rate is much improved however.
Outstanding effort again. The goal - a poachers classic - capped another superb performance. If anyone is going to score the goals to keep us up it'll be him.
Not the prettiest of footballers to watch but Bob has a habit of popping up in the right spot, which is what he did after just two minutes. The partnership with Tevez is paying dividends.
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 66) Sat deep for the final 20 minutes to protect the two goal cushion.
(Replaced Zamora, 67) Won a couple of decent headers but was rarely involved as the Hammers concentrated on defensive issues following his arrival.
Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Tevez, 82) Only on for a few minutes but still had enough time to create a goalscoring chance, which Schwarzer was forced to block.
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, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Bobby Zamora 2 Carlos Tevez 45 .
Booked: None booked! .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Xavier, Taylor, Pogatetz, Woodgate, Rochemback, Boateng, Parnaby, Downing, Yakubu, Viduka.
Subs not used: Jones, Lee.
Booked: Pogatetz (62)..
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: George McCartney.