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Steve Blowers, Recorder Reporter
Monday, February 25, 2013
West Ham United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Twenty years on from his untimely passing, the Hammers fans came to the Boleyn Ground to remember the late, great Bobby Moore.
But in the end, it was the Tottenham Hotspur supporters, who left Upton Park with joyous visions of Gareth Bale’s simply unstoppable 90th-minute winner that sent his side up into third spot.
Spurs’ own wonder boy had already given Andre Villas Boas’ side a 12th-minute lead before Andy Carroll levelled from the penalty spot to make it all-square at the break.
And although Joe Cole gave West Ham the advantage as the hour-mark approached, substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised before Bale snatched victory thanks to his 19th goal of the season.
With just a solitary win in their last half-dozen Premier League games, the Hammers kicked off in 13th-place, just six points clear of the drop zone and, after his side’s defeat at Aston Villa 15 days ago, Sam Allardyce made a quartet of changes as James Collins, Gary O’Neil, Guy Demel and Matt Jarvis returned in place of James Tomkins and Mark Noble plus substitutes Matt Taylor and Emanuel Pogatetz.
And after 60 seconds whole-hearted applause for Moore, the home fans were soon clapping some modern day Hammers as Mohamed Diame and then Matt Jarvis forced Hugo Lloris into two low, excellent low saves, while Mousa Dembele was also booked for a crude lunge on skipper Kevin Nolan.
But just what the 108-times capped England skipper would have made of Guy Demel’s sloppy 12th-minute square pass, a mere 18 yards from his own goal, is anybody’s guess?
For the on-fire Bale, who had already fired one effort narrowly behind, wasted no time in atoning for that earlier miss as he gratefully collected the Ivory Coast defender’s stray ball before placing his low shot wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s outstretched left glove.
And having netted his eighth goal in his last seven outings, the breaking Bale was determined to bag a second shortly afterwards, but the Hammers keeper held the Welshman’s low shot, to the frustration of his fellow north London raiders.
Riding high in fourth-spot, buoyant Tottenham had come into this game having suffered just one defeat – an FA Cup exit at Leeds United – in their last 14 outings and following their 1-1 draw in Lyon on Thursday evening, they made three switches from the side that had steered themselves into the last 16 of the Europa League.
Lloris, Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson came in for substitutes Brad Friedel, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and William Gallas and while ex-West Ham United striker Jermain Defoe (ankle) was still sidelined, three times Hammer of the Year Scott Parker – who was jeered with every touch upon his return to Upton Park - lined up in midfield.
But after Kyle Walker had blazed a couple of speculative long-rangers high into the dark, icy East End skies it was Parker, who gave his former side the chance to equalise when he rashly slid into Carroll as both went in pursuit of Nolan’s 26th-minute lay-off.
Referee Howard Webb instantly pointed the spot and - with Mark Noble absent – the on-loan, lone-forward dusted himself down before determinedly drilling the consequent penalty high to the left of Lloris to claim his third goal of the campaign.
“Andy Carroll, he scores against you!” came the cry from the jubilant Hammers fans, ever-mindful of England striker’s late header at White Hart Lane back in November and certainly, with West Ham back on level terms, the claret and blue confidence started to return.
Having taken that early whack from Dembele, though, Nolan had also seen Parker painfully tread on his frozen toes and despite his best attempts at making some running repairs he eventually retired to be replaced by Taylor.
Just before the interval, the breaking Jarvis looked all set to put West Ham ahead but Walker produced a brilliant point-blank block, while at the other end, Jaaskelainen pulled out a brilliant one-handed stop to turn aside Caulker’s close-range header and then that man Bale sent a 40-yard Ronaldo-esque free-kick just inches wide of the right-hand angle.
Just after the restart, the Hammers keeper had to scramble across goal to beat away a Jan Vertonghen effort that had deflected off the unfortunate Demel and from the consequent corner, the flying Finn again beat away another goalbound header from Caulker.
On 55 minutes, Spurs brought on Sigurdsson for Lewis Holtby and within seconds of his arrival the Icelandic international let fly with an awkward 25-yarder that Jaaskelainen turned onto his left-hand post and as Emmanuel Adebayor sprinted in for the kill, the Hammers keeper miraculously foiled the follow-up header.
That left the Spurs fans packed behind the seemingly charmed goal gasping in disbelief and their disappointment was compounded just moments later, when Joey O’Brien sent a lofted left-wing ball behind the visitors defence, where Cole cleverly tucked an angled shot across the face of Lloris and into the far corner to send the claret and blue fan amongst the crowd of 35,005 wild with delight, while the scorer himself was booked for ripping off his shirt.
Midway through the half Caulker found himself denied for a third time as Jaaskelainen clawed yet another goalbound header away and shortly afterwards the green-shirted goalie tipped Bale’s delicate chip onto the crossbar.
Carroll’s deflected effort was then held by the Spurs keeper and after Diame and O’Neil were each cautioned for baulking Bale, the escaping Taylor had a brilliant chance to seal victory but last-man Lloris raced out to foil with his body.
This time around it was West Ham, who were left to rue their misfortune, for shortly afterwards Bale sent a right-wing free-kick into the six-yard box, where the Hammers defenders found themselves unable to clear and after an unsightly goalmouth scramble, Sigurdsson bundled the ball over the line to level.
In a frantic finale, Man of the Match Jaaskelainen pulled off another couple of assured saves, while at the other end the hesitant Carroll could not convert Joe Cole’s deft back-heel.
But inevitably Bale was to have the final word, when he collected the ball 30 yards out and let fly with an unstoppable, swerver that curved around O’Neil and beyond an undeserving Jaaskelainen, who for once could only grope thin air as the shot scorched under his left-hand angle to break Hammers hearts.
HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel (Pogatetz 72), O’Brien, Reid, Collins, J. Cole, Jarvis, O’Neil, Diame (Collison 84) Nolan (Taylor 35) Carroll. Unused subs: Spiegel, C.Cole, Vaz Te, Chamakh.
SPURS: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson, Caulker, Lennon, Holtby (Sigurdsson 56), Parker (Livermore 88), Dembele (Carroll 75), Bale, Adebayor. Unused subs: Gallas, Naughton, Friedel, Assou-Ekotto,
Bookings: Dembele (7), J. Cole (59), Diame (62), Collins (82).
Referee: Howard Webb (Sheffield).