Hammers off the bottom as they surprise Reds
By Tom Dowsett
Monday 28 Feb 2011 13:27:00
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West Ham United lifted themselves off the bottom of the Barclays Premier League table, however they remain in the relegation zone on goal difference after an excellent result and performance against Liverpool at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon.

Contrary to some reports ahead of the game, Avram Grant was able to recall captain Matthew Upson to the starting line up, Gary O'Neill returned after missing last Monday's FA Cup tie with Burnley, while Thomas Hitzlsperger made his League debut. Scott Parker was named in the side despite concerns over a shoulder injury picked up in training the previous day and Frederic Piquionne replaced Carlton Cole, who dropped to the bench.

Knowing they had to get something out of this game to climb up the table, especially as relegation rivals Wolves achieved a 4-0 demolition of Blackpool on Saturday, the Hammers were up for the fight from the first whistle. This was evident with just three minutes gone, when Hitzlsperger tried to repeat his heroics against Burnley with a 25-yard shot but it failed to beat Jose Reina in the Liverpool goal.

Both sides battled well, but on 21 minutes the first goal arrived and it was no more than their play deserved, as good build up play from West Ham resulted in Parker playing a one-two with Hitzlsperger before finishing with the outside of his right foot past the despairing dive of Reina.

Minutes later, the home side could have increased their advantage when Piquionne found space well and crossed along the six-yard box but unfortunately the ball was just too far in front of Demba ba who was sliding in at the far post.

Two penalty appeals for West Ham were waved away in the space of a minute when first on 34 minutes, Lars Jacobsen and Mark Noble worked well down the right to win a throw. The throw was taken and worked back to Noble, who crossed for Ba who was upended in the box, but any penalty claims were waved away. Then on 35 minutes was perhaps the clearest of the two penalty shouts as Piquionne was having his shirt pulled but handball was given against the striker and a free-kick was awarded to the visitors.

On 41 minutes, the Hammers earned a free kick when Hitzlsperger was fouled by Lucas Leiva. Noble took the free kick, but his effort was inches wide of the left post.

A minute later Liverpool were forced to make a substitution as defender Martin Kelly had to come off due to a hamstring injury and was replaced by former Hammer Joe Cole who received a warm reception from all four corners of the stadium.

The second goal arrived just as three minutes of stoppage were announced as O'Neill crossed for Ba to dive in and claim his third goal in as many games for the Hammers, with a superb header into the top right-hand corner.

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When the second half started, James Tomkins had to deal with some early Liverpool pressure when he had to head Steven Gerrard's cross over his own crossbar. Minutes later Ba nearly grabbed another for the Hammers but his effort was just inches wide of the far post.

However, with that chance now gone, it didn't take the Hammers long to come close again. This time Piquionne had a great chance to increase the advantage, but his header from Hitzlsperger's corner was somehow blocked and hacked clear.

On 61 minutes, Robert Green made a superb save when Luis Suarez found some space on his left foot and tried to hit the net from a difficult angle.

On 82 minutes Grant made his first change, introducing Jonathan Spector in place of Piquionne.

Two minutes later, with Liverpool piling on the pressure they get their goal which, to be honest, they hardly deserved, when West Ham allowed the ball to bounce inside their own penalty area and Suarez' cross was knocked in by another former hammer Glen Johnson from close range.

On 88 minutes Ba was replaced by Cole and as three minutes of stoppage time were signalled, Cole topped off what had been a fine performance from the hammers with a third goal as he got straight into the action and did superbly to hold off Martin Skrtel, before taking on Jamie Carragher and beating Reina at his near post with a pearler of a shot.

In his post-match interview, Grant dedicated the three points to co-owner David Gold who was admitted to hospital last Wednesday with cholangitis and septicaemia. Here's hoping he's well enough to return to work and enjoy the first of the double-header with Stoke City which comes up on Saturday afternoon. 

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