Promising Afternoon Ruined by Rooney
By Tom Dowsett
Saturday 02 Apr 2011 22:02:00
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West Ham United slipped back into the relegation zone after letting another two goal advantage slip on Saturday, this time at home to League leaders Manchester United.

It hasn't happened too many times this season but Avram Grant had the luxury of naming an unchanged side from the team that played out a goalless draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane two weeks ago.

The game got underway with the visitors dominating the early possession, Robert Green being tested as early as the third minute, when he tipped over Chris Smalling's goal-bound header.

However, West Ham were handed the chance to go ahead on 11 minutes when Patrice Evra's hand incepted Carlton Cole's flick over his head and referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot. Mark Noble cooly stepped up and sent Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way.

With Alex Ferguson's side suddenly behind, what followed was a spell of continuous pressure from the Red Devils, forcing a succesion of corners which, for the most part, were dealt with well by the Hammers' defence.

Having weathered the storm the Hammers' forward line started to pose problems for the United defence and on 24 minutes Nemanja Vidic clearly tripped Cole in the box and referee Mason had no hesitation in awarding another penalty.

It was up to Noble again to beat Kuszczak for a second time which he duly did, putting the home side 2-0 ahead and the majority of Upton Park were dreaming of a Carling Cup repeat!

Eleven minutes later a great team move could have seen Thomas Hitzlsperger further increase the advantage but his difficult volley flashed just wide of the target.

The Hammers reached the half time break looking relatively comfortable but more drama was to unfold in the second half.

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United introduced Javier Hernandez in place of Evra but despite this attacking move, West ham started the second half well and exercised a degree of control over events.

However, on 64 minutes the whole balance of the game shifted when the visitors won a free-kick on the edge of the box following Noble's challenge on former Hammer Michael Carrick.

As if the award wasn't enough of a problem, Dimitar Berbatov was introduced in place of Park-Ji Sung as Wayne Rooney shaped up the free-kick. Rooney expertly curled the ball past the wall and into the net.

Having got themselves back into the game the visitors were now pushing hard for an equaliser. Four minutes after Cole had been replaced with Frederic Piquionne the Hammers saw their lead disappear as Rooney grabbed his second of the afternoon.

The game was clearly moving United's way and West Ham were trying desperately to hold on to what they had. Rooney was to take the accolades again as he completed his hat-trick on 79 minutes after finishing from the spot following a handball shout, perhaps harshly given against Matthew Upson.

In an attempt to salvage something from the match, Grant threw on Robbie Keane and Victor Obinna for Gary O'Neil and Noble but the afternoon was to get worse for the Hammers as Hernandez tapped in a fourth and the game, which had looked so promising for so long, was now well and truely beyond the home side.

With the results of their relegation rivals not helping matters the Hammers face a tricky trip to Bolton next Saturday.

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