Hammers head to Tottenham with a win
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 27 Dec 2009 12:38:00
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West Ham United moved out of the relegation zone for the first time since the start of the month with a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory over a poor Portsmouth side at Upton Park on Saturday.

An Alessandro Diamanti penalty and a late header from Radoslav Kovac secured West Ham's fourth league win of the season against a Portsmouth team sinking fast to bottom of the Premier League table.Gianfranco Zola's side were deserved victors, despite having to endure a worrying period when the visitors rallied late in the second half. The clean sheet was an added bonus for the Hammers, as it was their first since drawing at Blackburn in the first month of the season.

In a somewhat scrappy opening, the Hammers started to exert pressure on their south coast visitors and their attacking impotus lead to a precious opener on 23 minutes.

The impressive Luis Jimenez, on as a 16th minute substitute for the injured Mark Noble, was tripped in the area by a combination of former Hammer Hayden Mullins and Portsmouth skipper Michael Brown. Diamanti, who has been in potent form in front of goal of late, put the penalty into the bottom right hand side of the net, despite a gallant effort from 'keeper Asmir Begovic.

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West Ham appeared comfortable as they held until the break - a lead which was fully deserved on the balance of play. The second half, however, was a more complex affair as Zola's side once again went on the defensive rather than push for a second which would have put Portsmouth well out of sight. The vast majority of the 33,686 crowd became restless as the visitors started to make an impact in the game.

As West Ham pushed deeper and deeper, Pompey created chances, yet thankfully for the Hammers, Frederic Piquionne was not on form and wasted a number of half decent chances. The greatest chance of all for the French striker came with his failure to beat Robert Green when presented with a gilt-edged opportunity just ten minutes from time.

By now Pompey were running out of ideas, and the Hammers finally began to take control of the game - and decided to take advantage by giving a pleasing return to Valon Behrami, who came on as a 72nd minute substitute for the fading Diamanti. The Swiss midfielder, back after surgery was the catalyst for the second goal and the hatful of chances that preceeded it, which included efforts by himself and Jack Collison that were both only inches away from finding the target.

The second, and decisive goal arrived in the 89th minute and yet again, Chilean playmaker Jimenez was involved. His inviting free kick from the right was met by a powerful header from Czech international midfielder Radoslav Kovac which thundered into the net. It was a goal that he fully deserved following two excellent performances within a week. It was his second goal for the club that provided a welcome victory over a fellow struggler and took Zola's men out of the drop zone.

The three points have lifted the Irons two places up the Premier League to 17th. In a very tough looking fixture, any result against a resurgent Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Monday will be welcome yet perhaps unexpected. The Hammers travel to north London with a fully fit squad bar the absences of defender Danny Gabbidon and striker Carlton Cole, but with a win that has lifted West Ham out of the bottom three, confidence will be high for the trip to their fellow London rivals.

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