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King-size victory

Posted on 8 December 2008  - 12:00

Ledley King's first goal since December 2005 and a stunning strike from Jamie O'Hara sealed a valuable three points on the road at Upton Park on Monday night.

King-size victory

Ledley King's first goal since December 2005 and a stunning strike from Jamie O'Hara sealed a valuable three points on the road at Upton Park on Monday night.

The skipper's last contribution to the goal charts was against Portsmouth and his header against the Hammers set the tone in a match where maximum points were richly merited after the momentum was seized in the second half.

There was a real chance to get the night off to flying start when Aaron Lennon pinged back across goal to where David Bentley was waiting to roll into the path of the returning Luka Modric. From a central position the Croatian opted for precision rather than power, but his radar was askew on this occasion and it was an easy field for Robert Green.

The lively beginning was not built on and both sides struggled when it came to keeping possession in the first 20 minutes - particularly in the final third. Green's next sight of ball came when a Benoit Assou-Ekotto cross was headed at him by Bentley.

West Ham did have the ball in the net off Jermaine Jenas, with referee Mr Foy spotting the fact that the midfielder was being knocked about and duly ruled out any home lead.

The contest continued to stutter with either side establishing authority until Bentley latched onto a headed clearance and lashed the ball goalwards on the half-volley with Green forced into a smart reaction save.

Control was being exerted in the approach to half-time and the home crowd were increasingly venting their collective frustration. A low cross from Lennon skidded across goal and Roman Pavlyuchenko stuck out a leg at the far post but ended up hitting it.

Also increasing was the influence of Modric, clearly the most influential player on the pitch in the first half, gliding across the surface and seemingly almost always in a position to receive the ball.

Lucas Neill smashed across goal in the opening exchanges of the second half, with Julien Faubert unable to make any sort of connection, but West Ham did appear to emerge with something of a spring in their step.

It was Lennon who rocked them back on their heels with a speedy dash before he was bundled off the ball before Modric speculated from distance with an effort that was foiled high in the air by Green.

There then looked to be a strong case for handball against Herita Ilunga from Vedran Corluka's cross, but Mr Foy might not have been in the best position to spot.

By this time Darren Bent was in the thick of the action having replaced Pavlyuchenko, while West Ham swapped Faubert in a popular move with Mark Noble. A brilliant incisive move involving Jenas and Lennon led to Bent being presented with a scoring chance in front of goal just after the hour, but his sidefooted effort did not find the target or do the move justice.

The quality was now on show with most of the approach work from the team in white shirts, although execution of the final ball was proving a frustration. This couldn't be levelled at Assou-Ekotto when his sliderule pass across goal picked out Bent on the turn, but the striker was quickly outnumbered.

Didier Zokora then made a dash for it and unleashed a shot that Green did well to save low to his left.

The deadlock was then broken by a these days unlikely goalscorer. A magnificent cross from the right by Lennon was met by the head of King, who nodded downwards and beat the despairing dive of Green.

Substitute David Di Michele tried to force the issue shortly after his introduction but was denied by a determined block from Jonathan Woodgate in front of goal.

Apart from this the flow was towards the goal guarded by Green and Lennon was not too far away from adding to the lead with just over ten minutes remaining.

Heurelho Gomes denied Neill and then Di Michele from point blank range with fine saves before West Ham were caught with a counter-punch when Corluka picked out the substitute O'Hara who let rip from 20-odd yards and arrowed the ball into the top corner to complete a fine night's work.