Filed: Saturday, 2nd May 2009
By: Staff Writer
A first half Diego Tristan striker has put the Hammers firmly back in the hunt for Europe.
Tristan notched the only goal of a tight game to give the Hammers a much needed three points - their first on the road since the 1-0 win over Wigan on March 4th - and condemn the Potters to their first home defeat of 2009.
The victory lifts the Hammers back into seventh spot in the table with 48 points from 35 games - just a point ahead ahead of Man City (3-1 winners against Blackburn), Fulham (lost 3-1 at Chelsea) and Spurs (beat WBA 2-0) who all have 47 points from the same number of games.
The winning goal arrived after 33 minutes when Tristan registered his third strike of the season with a beautifully taken 20-yard free kick. The Spaniard may have lost some of his pace and agility over the years but his touch remains as good as ever - as perfectly illustrated with a strike that curled away from Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen into the far corner of his net.
In an entertaining game both sides saw efforts disallowed - and both were slightly contentious decisions by referee Peter Walton. Firstly Stoke were denied an 11th minute opening goal when Ricardo Fuller was adjudged to have fouled Rob Green whilst climbing to reach a Rory Delay throw, even though TV replays showed that Green was slightly fortunate to win the decision.
Two minutes later it was West Ham's turn to feel hard done by when David Di Michele swivelled on the spot before firing home a Tristan through ball. Although unclear why referee Walton denied the 'goal' Di Michele may have brushed the ball with his arm as it fell to him; there didn't appear to be any other noticeable infringement nor reason for its cancellation.
Following Tristan's strike the half ended in some controversy after a heated moment in first half injury time involving Luis Boa Morte and Rory Delap. A late challenge from the United player saw the former Derby defender lash out with a kick; fortunately referee Walton decided to take the same option and simply issue both players a caution.
The second half began quietly and both sides could only muster a single effort each until the final 20 minutes when Stoke began to push on in search of a late equaliser. A flurry of Delay throw-ins seemed to be the Potters' best hope of restoring parity but Green's goal was only really threatened in the fifth of seven added-on minutes when Fuller found himself in space inside the six yard box - but the striker could only blaze his effort over the bar.
For a change there were no (obvious) fresh injury worries for Zola and Steve Clarke to contend with (even if the reason for the ommision of Savio and Kieron Dyer from the 16-man squad is currently unknown), whilst the sight of Jack Collison coming on as a late second half substitute was a welcome boost to a severely stretched squad.
Zola will also hope to have Carlton Cole back in his squad for the visit of title chasers Liverpool next week; a game from which the Hammers will almost certainly need something in order to carry the fight for Europe to the end of the season.
Stoke City 0 West Ham United 1: match facts
West Ham Utd: Green, Neill, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Stanislas, Noble (Lopez 87), Kovac, Boa Morte (Collison 82), Tristan, Di Michele (Sears 89).
Subs not used: Lastuvka, Spector, Payne, Hines.
Goals: Tristan (33).
Efforts on goal: 7 (13, 16, 33*, 34, 44; 68, 90+3).
Booked: Boa Morte (45+1), Neill (80).
Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson (Sonko 88), Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Pugh (Olofinjana 73), Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Etherington, Fuller, Beattie (Camara 72).
Subs not used: Simonsen, Cresswell, Kelly, Tonge.
Efforts on goal: 8 (9, 11, 26; 54, 74, 78, 79, 90+4).
Booked: Shawcross (45+1), Delap (45+1), Lawrence (45+3).
Referee: Peter Walton (7).
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11:32AM 3rd May 2009
''If you'd said to me up to the Blackburn game "give Tristan another years contract" I'd have said "no way". Fair play to him though; since then he has caught the eye for the right reasons especially against Sunderland, Villa, Chelsea and yesterday. Terrific free kick!
Yes I know he's had some problems off the pitch with drink driving for which he deserves absolutely no sympathy (and I must admit I've been a bit down on him for not performing when his reputation says he should) but if he can keep those problems behind him and concentrate on playing well he's a good variation for us and worth another year if he wants it.
Can't see him leading the line for 38 matches solid but definitely could have a part to play for us.''
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