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West Ham’s six-goal thriller leaves them in the relegation zone

Kevin Nolan celebrates scoring West Ham's third goal as West Brom players look dejected. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images Kevin Nolan celebrates scoring West Ham's third goal as West Brom players look dejected. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Saturday, December 28, 2013
3:07 PM

Premier League: West Ham United 3 West Bromwich Albion 3

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West Ham United's Mark Noble (right) tackles West Bromwich Albion's Youssuf Mulumbu (left)West Ham United's Mark Noble (right) tackles West Bromwich Albion's Youssuf Mulumbu (left)

West Ham United go into 2014 in the drop zone following this six-goal festive thriller at Upton Park, where Sam Allardyce’s side twice surrendered the lead.

Although Joe Cole got the Hammers off to a dream start, Nicolas Anelka’s quick-fire double gave the Baggies an interval lead, before substitute Modibo Maiga and skipper Kevin Nolan restored home advantage midway through the second period.

West Ham United's Razvan Rat and West Bromwich Albions' Billy Jones compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London.West Ham United's Razvan Rat and West Bromwich Albions' Billy Jones compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London.

But Saido Berahino then levelled for the Baggies to leave Big Sam a point adrift of safety going into the Craven Cottage cruncher at Fulham on New Year’s Day.

Following their Boxing Day defeat at the hands of Arsenal, the Hammers made two changes as Razvan Rat came in for the injured James Collins (calf), while Jussi Jaaskelainen returned in place of Adrian, who paid the price for his festive fumbling.

And West Ham could not have got off to a better beginning, when Joe Cole put them ahead with less than four minutes on referee Kevin Friend’s watch.

Jaaskelainen’s deep kick upfield was nodded down by Carlton Cole and, after playing a one-two with Kevin Nolan, Joe Cole collected the return and slotted an angled 10-yarder under Ben Foster as Jonas Olsson fruitlessly slid in.

Despite their dogged draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, the Baggies made half-a-dozen changes as Anelka, Berahino, Chris Brunt, Youssouf Mulumbu, Billy Jones and Gareth McAuley all returned.

Indeed, it was Brunt who created the first chance of the afternoon, when he ripped an early angled shot into the side-netting and, after seeing Joe Cole give the Hammers the lead, he then combined with Anelka, but Berahino failed to read the deft back-heel into the six yard box.

On 10 minutes, West Ham were forced to make a change as James Tomkins hobbled away holding his groin and with Guy Demel entering the fray, that meant that Allardyce – with Winston Reid and Collins also injured - now has all three central defenders on the treatment table.

With the Baggies fielding five at the back, the opening exchanges were confined to the midfield battleground, making goal chances more and more scarce as the half wore on.

Carlton Cole did manage a looping header, while Demel drilled against the post from the tightest of tight angles and Noble also launched a 25-yard free-kick that flew just wide.

But with West Ham looking to take their precious lead into the interval, Anelka turned the game on its head with two goals inside five fast and furious minutes.

First, he toe-poked Albion level on 40 minutes, when Mulumbu picked out the green-booted Brunt on the halfway line and he invited the Frenchman to race behind Joey O’Brien and prod the ball beyond the advancing Jaaskelainen.

If that was not shocking enough for the claret and blue fans, their half-time cuppa was then well and truly ruined in stoppage time, when the back-tracking Joe Cole slid the ball on to the big toenail of the breaking James Morrison only for referee Friend to award a flag-kick.

And although Carlton Cole managed to hook the header off the right-hand post, when Brunt’s consequent, controversial corner was nodded goalwards by Olsson, Anelka reacted first to scuff the loose ball over the line from six yards to give the Baggies a half-time lead.

Maiga replaced Carlton Cole – who had been booked for overturning Olsson - at the break, but having nabbed those two late goals before the break, Anelka almost claimed the match-ball within two minutes of the restart, however Jaaskelainen got down well to save.

In reply, Rat and Joe Cole went close with 18-yarders, while Mulumbu and Nolan were booked for trips on Matt Jarvis and Brunt, before Maiga’s 20-yard curler was acrobatically clawed out from under his right-hand angle by the flying Foster.

But the Hammers substitute was not to be denied and, on 65 minutes, Maiga collected from Nolan and threaded a low 18-yarder through Olsson and Brunt into the bottom left-hand corner.

Having levelled, the Hammers then took just two minutes to claw themselves ahead, when Noble’s lofted pass to the far post was nodded down into the six-yard box by Maiga and this time goal-maker turned goal-taker as Nolan spectacularly hooked high into the roof of the net.

Sadly, the Hammers hard-fought lead only lasted a couple of minutes, for Brunt turned creator once again with a clever pass to Berahino, who twisted and turned Demel before unloading a low, angled 18-yard shot that flew across the face of Jaaskelainen and in-off the far post.

Having surrendered their advantage for the second time, the afternoon could have got even worse for West Ham but Berahino’s late 20-yard free kick cannoned off the right-hand post to leave both sides settling for a point.

HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Rat, McCartney, Tomkins (Demel 10), J. Cole (Collison 83), Jarvis, Nolan, Noble, Diame, C Cole (Maiga h/t). Unused Subs: Adrian, Taylor, Diarra, Chambers

BAGGIES: Foster, Jones, Ridgewell, Olsson, McAuley, Lugano (Almalfitano 68), Morrison (Yacob 77), Brunt, Mulumbu, Berahino (Sessegnon 85), Anelka. Unused subs: Myhill, Sinclair, Vydra, Dawson

Bookings: C. Cole (43), Mulumbu (48), Nolan (56), Diame (81), Ridgwell (90+1)

Referee: Kevin Friend

Attendance: 34,946

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