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Ben Kosky, at Wembley Stadium
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Championship play-off final: Blackpool 1 West Ham 2
Ricardo Vaz Te struck a dramatic winner three minutes from time as the Hammers beat Blackpool to regain Premier League status at the first attempt.
The Portuguese striker rifled into the roof of the net to settle a hard-fought Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium and ensure that Sam Allardyce’s side return to the top flight next season.
The best opportunities fell to Blackpool in the opening 15 minutes, with Robert Green coming to the rescue by turning Scott Dobbie’s effort onto the post after a slip by Matt Taylor.
Matt Phillips then squandered two chances in quick succession, steering the first tamely at Green and then capitalising on Guy Demel’s mistake to race through and fire wide of the far post.
Although Vaz Te’s attempt skidded into the side netting and Carlton Cole headed over the bar, Hammers’ attacks generally fell down when it came to the final ball.
But they edged in front 10 minutes before half-time as Taylor won possession inside his own half, advanced and floated a clever ball into the path of Cole, who held off Ian Evatt and tucked his finish beyond Matt Gilks.
Soon afterwards, Vaz Te should have made it 2-0 when Jack Collison’s ball came through to him just inside the penalty area, but he slid it wide of the near post with just Gilks to beat.
And Blackpool were level just two minutes into the second half when Matt Phillips won possession, swept the ball through for Ince, and the son of the infamous ex-Hammers midfielder stroked the equaliser past Green.
Soon afterwards Taylor cleared off the line after Alex Baptiste had lobbed ball over Green, but the momentum ebbed and flowed between the tangerine and claret and blue halves of the stadium.
Gilks kept his side level with a superb stop to keep out Cole’s clinical shot on the turn and, at the other end, Dobbie miscued his finish after Neal Eardley’s low cross had eluded the Hammers defence.
Dobbie had a couple of better attempts after that, one that Green turned around the post and a free-kick that the keeper gathered comfortably, but Hammers went close to winning it when Kevin Nolan’s volley smacked the crossbar.
And the claret and blue hordes were celebrating soon afterwards when Taylor’s cross was helped on by Cole and fell for Vaz Te, who sealed promotion with a clinical finish.
West Ham Utd: Green; Demel (Faubert 57), Tomkins, Reid, Taylor; Collison, Noble, Nolan, O’Neill (McCartney 54); Cole, Vaz Te.