Hammers fail to get City break
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 01 May 2011 21:06:00
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West Ham United were the only team in the bottom six not to pick up a point this weekend as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at Eastlands on Sunday afternoon, and therefore remain rooted to the foot of the Barclays Premier League.

Avram Grant made four changes from the side that lost to Chelsea last Saturday. Matthew Upson and James Tomkins were restored to the back line in place of Manuel Da Costa, who dropped to the bench, and Wayne Bridge, who was ineligible to play against his parent club. Luis Boa Morte made his first start since the trip to West Brom in February, coming in for the injured Mark Noble, while Robbie Keane was preferred to Carlton Cole up-front.

Despite a few early touches for West Ham, it was the hosts who controlled the opening quarter and their dominance told as they struck twice to take up a comfortable position. It took just ten minutes for City to get their noses in front, after Nigel De Jong's long-range effort from 25 yards found the bottom corner after poor defending from a corner. It was the Dutchman's first goal for the club in two seasons.

Just five minutes later, the Hammers were further behind. Pablo Zabaleta exposed the freedom of the left-hand side to drill in a cross that West Ham defender Lars Jacobsen turned into his own net.

To add further woe, the recently returned Upson was taken off injured after an innocuous looking collision with City striker Mario Ballotelli, and was replaced by Da Costa.

Despite the initial setbacks, West Ham started to grow into the game and pushed for a goal back. On the half hour mark Robbie Keane had a great chance to pull a goal back and should have done better when clean through.

The goal finally came in the 33rd minute after intense Hammers pressure. Thomas Hitzlsperger lifted the ball back into the box after a half cleared corner and despite the ball hitting Joleon Lescott's hand, West Ham striker Demba Ba swept home neatly from 10 yards.

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In the second half the pendulum swung in the visitors favour as they continued to pour forward searching for a vital equaliser. However, it was the home side that had the best of the early chances. Firstly, Ballotelli hit the crossbar from 16 yards after good work from David Silva and then it was Silva himself who opted to pass to his strike partner when clean through, and Ballotelli's weak effort was cleared off the line by Tomkins.

In between times, Da Costa almost equalised with Joe Hart saving well from a header by the Portuguese defender. It was one of several half chances for West Ham that they agonisingly failed to capatilise on.

In an attempt to grab the equaliser, Grant opted for all out attack with Cole replacing Keane and Victor Obinna taking the place of the hard-working Boa Morte. And it was Cole who came closest for the Hammers, seeing his goalbound effort blocked en-route with a fantastic challenge from a City defender.

Ultimately West Ham's hard-work was all in vein as they slipped to another defeat that leaves them bottom of the table. The club now faces three crucial games, the first of which sees the Hammers host Blackburn Rovers, boasting an impressive six year unbeaten record against the Lancashire side. It is game which they have to win to stand any chance of remaining in the division next season.

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