West Ham denied shock FA Cup victory by late Van Persie strike

Hammers’ returning star Joe Cole inspired West Ham with two assists for James Collins’ headers but in the end Manchester earned a replay

West Ham United 2 Manchester United 2

Deadly Dutchman Robin Van Persie ruined Joe Cole’s home-coming with an injury-time leveller at Upton Park, to leave the heartbroken Hammers needing to do it all again in a tricky Old Trafford replay.

Watched by a sell-out crowd, millions of tea-time TV viewers and David Beckham, Sam Allardyce’s side deservedly looked destined for the FA Cup fourth round after Cole’s pinpoint crosses had twice invited two-goal James Collins to wipe out Tom Cleverley’s opener and then put the three-times winners into the lead, on the hour-mark.

But just when the Welsh defender’s first strikes for the club since his own return to Upton Park back in the summer seemed to have done the trick, substitute Van Persie forced that re-match with his 20th goal of the campaign, in stoppage time.

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Both sides had kicked off 2013 with New Year’s Day victories and following the 2-1 win over Norwich City that had lifted his side into 11th-spot, Allardyce made five changes.

Inevitably Cole started alongside captain Kevin Nolan, James Collins, Dan Potts and Alou Diarra as Winston Reid, Matt Jarvis, Matt Taylor and Mark Noble dropped to the bench, while injured Joey O’Brien missed out, together with on-loan Marouane Chamakh, whose arrival from Arsenal had come too late for him to be eligible for this third round tie against the 11-time winners.

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Certainly, Cole had enjoyed mixed FA Cup fortunes for the Hammers against United first time around, starring in the legendary 1-0 win at the Theatre of Dreams in 2001 before enduring a nightmare 6-0 defeat in his final relegation-wracked season with the club two years later.

And having now reclaimed the No. 26 shirt in which he emerged as one of the country’s most exciting talents during his 149 appearances in the claret & blue, the 56-times capped England midfielder received a rapturous reception upon his welcome return to the East End.

While all the early attention was on Joe Cole, it was name-sake Carlton, who came within a whisker of putting the Hammers into an 11th minute lead, when his header was cleared off the line by Javier Hernandez after the soaring Diarra had seen his own effort headed back across goal by Paul Scoles.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s table-topping team had waltzed to a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic four days earlier and having gone seven points clear at the Premier League summit, United made half-dozen changes for this third-round tie as Scholes, Alex Buttner, Nemanja Vidic, Shinji Kagawa, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck each earned recalls, while ex-Hammer Rio Ferdinand found himself on the bench.

At the other end, an alert Jussi Jaaskelainen had quickly been forced to sprint from his line to claim the ball off the boot of Javier Hernandez, who then found himself just a stud away from sliding home Smalling’s low cross into the six-yard box.

On 20 minutes, United’s first corner saw Vidic meet Buttner’s left-wing centre with a powerful downward header that young Potts hacked off the goal-line.

But having survived that scare, it was only another three minutes until the Hammers found themselves trailing, when a thrusting passing move saw the ball worked out to Hernandez on the right and when the mercurial Mexican crossed into the danger zone, Welbeck – shackled by Guy Demel - allowed the ball to travel past him to the supporting Cleverley at the far post, where the unmarked England midfielder calmly curled an eight-yarder beyond the groping glove of Jaaskelainen.

West Ham were only behind for four minutes, though, and after Scholes was booked for juddering into Jack Collison, that man Joe Cole then created the equaliser with an exquisite curling left-wing cross that saw Collins dash in front of Jonny Evans to expertly steer a 12-yard header inside David De Gea’s left-hand post.

Collison was then booked for ramming Rafael and, as a lively opening half came to a close, Allardyce had Jaaskelainen to thank for keeping it all-square at the break, when he beat away Welbeck’s shot after the England striker had embarked on a solo-sortie deep into Hammers territory.

Having put United ahead in the first half, Cleverley also had a great chance to repeat the feat just after the restart but he fired high into the visiting fans packed into the Sit Trevor Brooking Stand, while Rafael also knocked Collins off his feet with another scorching shot.

In reply, another piece of Joe Cole trickery on 56 minutes almost gave Hammers the lead but after getting to the by-line with some fancy footwork and cleverly cutting the ball back, De Gea saved Carlton Cole’s diving header at full stretch.

The returning son was not going to be outdone, though, and on the hour it was a case of deja-vu, when Collison’s corner was only cleared to Cole and just like he had done in the first-half, he picked out Collins with a pin-point left-wing centre that the Welshman again headed inside the right-hand upright.

As the claret and blue fans amongst the crowd of 32,922 dusted down their Wembley songbooks, Jarvis replaced Ricardo Vaz Te, while Van Persie and Antonio Valencia menacingly stepped from the bench in place of Hernandez and Scholes, before Noble came on for the tiring Diarra and Ryan Giggs switched with Smalling.

With United desperately looking to force that replay, Welbeck had headed high over from close range but the Hammers were scrapping for every ball on every blade of the Upton Park grass.

Indeed, having received treatment for a bloodied nose that saw him forced to switch to a numberless jersey, despite the scoreboard ironically offering post-match sales of his new shirt in the club shop, Joe Cole then departed to even more applause than that which had greeted him, as Taylor came on for the final dozen minutes.

With Allardyce’s side already having one foot in the fourth round draw, Beckham duly departed and the mood of the trailing visitors was summed up by the frustrated Vidic, who received a late booking for blasting the ball into the Chicken Run.

But after Noble and Cole failed to convert inside the six-yard box, Giggs sounded out one late warning that United could still force that replay and after the Welshman headed over from point-blank range, that man Van Persie then came to the rescue just seconds into the four added minutes of stoppage time.

Racing on to Giggs brilliant through ball, the breaking Dutchman cleverly escaped the attentions of James Tomkins on the edge of the area before controlling the ball and drilling a low, angled 15-yarder across the face of the helplessly exposed Jaaskelainen and into the far corner of the net to leave West Ham United with it all to do in the Old Trafford replay.

HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Potts, Collins, Tomkins, Diarra (Noble 73), Nolan, Collison, J. Cole (Taylor 78), Vaz Te (Jarvis 60), C.Cole. Unused subs: Spiegel, Reid, Jarvis, Spence, Lee

RED DEVILS: De Gea, Smalling (Giggs 78), Buttner, Evans, Vidic, Scholes (Valencia 68), Rafael, Cleverley, Kagawa, Welbeck, Hernandez (Van Persie 68). Unused subs: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Young, Macheda

Bookings: Scholes (24), Collison (38), Vidic (84).

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Attendance: 32,922

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