West Ham walk it in a Winter wonderland
The Hammers are just two games away from the Carling Cup Final after thumping Manchester United at Upton Park.
IF YOU weren’t there, you would not have believed this incredible result. For those that were there, they couldn’t believe it either.
It was not just the fact that West Ham booked their place in the Carling Cup semi-finals by inflicting the first defeat of the season on holders Manchester United - no, it was the manner of the victory.
This was simply sensational, unbelievable, magnificent and any other superlative that you could think of.
Jonathan Spector played more like Lionel Messi in the first half of this game; Victor Obinna was everywhere, claiming the assist for all four goals and deserving one for himself; Carlton Cole became a hero again with his first double in eight years of football.
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It was a night to remember; a night when the freezing, biting wind meant nothing to the incredulous Hammers fans as they watched their supposedly under-strength side sweep aside Manchester United in a blizzard of high tempo, committed attacking football.
“Yes, it was not bad,” said an understated Avram Grant after the game. “It was a good win, good football, we continue our progress.
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“I thought we could win, but that was an unbelievable result.”
It was. When the West Ham fans glanced at the team line-up, they must have feared the worst. Spector in central midfield with Radoslav Kovac did not give much confidence; Julien Faubert and Tal Ben Haim as the full backs further underlined it.
But this was a night when magical things happened. Two corners in the opening couple of minutes set the tone, but then Manchester United almost grabbed the lead on seven minutes when Gabriel Obertan’s shot was superbly pushed on to the post by Robert Green and magnificently cleared by James Tomkins.
On 16 minutes, West Ham were convinced they had taken the lead. Spector played in Obinna and his shot seemed to deflect off a defender before flying into the net.
The Hammers celebrated for an age, before it became apparent that the goal had been disallowed. The shot had not hit a defender, it had cannoned off the onrushing Spector who stood in an offside position.
It was the correct decision, though a little tardy, but the ensuing chaos and row between Grant and re-feree Mark Clattenburg seemed to galvanise West Ham and leave Manchester United quaking in their boots.
Seven minutes later it was 1-0 for real. Cole fed Obinna and the Nigerian’s delicate cross saw Spector, yes Spector, bend his back and plant a superb header past Tomasz Kuszczak and into the net.
The visitors had plenty of possession for a while without really threatening, before West Ham incredibly made it 2-0 on 37 minutes.
Spector, yes, Spector, came forward, played a ball into Obinna and then kept running into the box. This time it worked perfectly as the ball hit the heel of the striker before falling nicely for Spector to finish with aplomb.
It was a winter wonderland for the Hammers as Alex Ferguson sat forlornly on the sidelines unable to believe what he was seeing - worse was to come.
United had a couple of half chances to get back into the game with Green tipping over Fabio Da Silva’s teasing cross and then the goalkeeper making up for planting a clearance into the back of Federico Macheda by saving at the feet of Javier Hernandez.
On 56 minutes the game was all over bar the shouting as West Ham made it three.
Obinna terrorised the defence down the left and then picked out the clever run of Cole, who buried his header from close range for only his second goal of the season.
Just 11 minutes later it was 4-0. Once more it was Obinna at the heart of things, teasing his way down the flank before feeding Cole with a low ball. The striker swivelled, got a yard on his marker and calmly slotted the ball into the corner.
Zavon Hines came on for his first game in over a year and should have won a penalty when he was barged over by John O’Shea, but the referee turned down the appeal.
From there it was just a matter of singing about going to Wembley and braving the cold as the fans waited for the final whistle.
When it came there was still a feeling of disbelief. Many had predicted a 4-0 result, it was just that the Hammers were going to be on the wrong end of it.
So was it a fluke? Was it a terrible United team? How can a team bottom of the league hammer Manchester United?
Grant was having none of it: “United play always with the same team in the Carling Cup, even when they won it last season.
“They have a good squad, a big squad and I think each player who played today, if you want to buy him, would cost more than �10million.”
What price Spector then? What price Ben Haim or Cole?
So what about a trip to Wembley? What would that do to the club?
“I think first of all to reach the semi-finals is very good,” said Grant. “We are trying to build something at this club step by step.”
Savour this result; remember it during the dark times, because, in truth, things do not get any better than this freezing, magnificent, unbelievable night at Upton Park – or do they?
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Ben Haim, Upson, Tomkins (Reid 74), Boa Morte, Kovac, Spector, Barrera (Hines 76), Obinna, Cole (Stanislas 89). Unused: Boffin, Parker, McCarthy, Piquionne.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg 5.