Going into the game, there is no doubt who’s need for poijnts was greater, with West Ham bottom of the table after seven months during which their off-field troubles almost certainly affected what was happening on the pitch.
After the coup of signing Argentina stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano on deadline day, the Irons failed to win any of their next six games. The backdrop to these struggles was a takeover by an Icelandic consortium headed by Eggert Magnusson.
The new regime waited a couple of weeks before sacking Alan Pardew and replacing him with former West Ham player Alan Curbishley, but after a 1-0 win over Manchester United in his first game in charge, the new manager bounce ended.
Without a win in 10 games, Curbishley made five changes for the Spurs game following the previous week’s 4-0 embarrassment at Charlton.
Tevez started as the Premier League’s investigation into his and Mascherano’s transfers bubbled in the background, while Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson, Lee Bowyer, Mark Noble and Marlon Harewood also came in against a Spurs side deprived of Robbie Keane due to suspension.
And they got off to the perfect start…
Rob Green had already been called upon to keep his side in the game with two superb saves within a minute from Dimitar Berbatov. Tevez was being his usual busy self at the other end and it was the Argentina star who laid on the opener.
Paul Konchesky carried the ball forward on the left before clipping a pass into Tevez up around his neck. The striker had the wherewithal to drop a few paces to be able to receive on his chest, rather than his Adam’s apple, while also spotting the presence of Noble.
The 19-year-old struck the ball almost on the half-volley, hitting it into the ground. But rather than bounce up and loop towards the Tottenham goal, it skimmed off the turf before arrowing through Michael Dawson’s legs on its way into the bottom corner.
As you would reasonably expect, the local boy rather enjoyed it…
Tevez and Harewood were rattling Spurs and with half-time approaching, El Apache baited Dawson into a tackle on the edge of the box. The striker was a touch too clever, winning a free-kick 20 yards from goal, just to the left of the D.
Paul Robinson set up a six-man wall, which was infiltrated by a trio of Hammers. So it is no wonder the England keeper couldn’t see as Tevez sauntered up the ball, stroking it over the wall, which grew as those in it jumped in unison.
Robinson, already some way from his line, advanced another pace so that he was almost three yards from home by the time he planted his foot to take off towards his right.
By then, the ball was almost above the keeper’s head, and his right hand could get nowhere near it. Not that Tevez had guided his attempt towards the corner – it was closer to the centre of the goal than the post when it cleared the Spurs stopper’s hand.
Robinson, though, had left enough room behind him for the ball to dip under the cross bar with plenty of clearance.
You can picture Alan Curbishley at half-time, burying his glee over their two-goal lead while telling his players to keep it tight for the next 15 minutes. And you can probably imagine his reaction six minutes later when Bowyer went sliding in to a challenge on Aaron Lennon inside the box.
Bowyer protested his innocence after the referee pointed to the spot, while Neill, who had just been embarrassed by Lennon in the build-up, suggested that the Spurs winger had dived.
Of course, he hadn’t. Bowyer’s tackle was, at best, ill-advised. More forthright observers might have called it downright stupid.
Despite the howls of the home crowd towards their former favourite, Defoe kept his cool to put Green on the floor before slotting his penalty down the other side. Game on…
It took perhaps the goal of the game to bring Tottenham level, but it all started with Tevez giving the ball away on the halfway line.
Pascal Chimbonda found himself ahead of the ball when Tevez slipped and the right-back combined with Berbatov to set the Bulgarian free on the right. His precise lofted pass found Lennon at the far post.
The simple thing for Lennon would be to pull the ball down his left instep. Instead, he opted to go with the outside of his right foot, bouncing the ball back into the path of Tainio.
The Finnish midfielder still had plenty to do. Again preferring his right foot, he let the ball run across his body before side-volleying with the outside of his boot to find Green’s bottom left-hand corner.
Twenty-seven minutes remained for either side to find a winner…
The Hammers appeared destined to win after all, and it looked to be an especially sweet goal for Bobby Zamora.
The striker had spent a miserable year at Tottenham before moving to Upton Park. He had also spent the first 83 minutes of this particular Sunday afternoon watching from the bench before being sent on to replace Matthew Etherington.
It took only two minutes for the substitute to make his mark. Tevez – who else? – delivered a free-kick from the right flank that swung away from Robinson’s goal, landing on Zamora’s bonce.
The striker diverted his header in the direction from which Robinson had just come, though again, the ball was some way off finding the corner.
Robinson, though, failed to plant his feet in time and found it impossible to explode off his left leg to make a reasonable attempt at a save. He was too-easily beaten once more, and this time there appeared to be no way back for Spurs.
Surely even Curbishley’s West Ham wouldn’t blow this one? For their first win in 10 games, all they had to do was stay tight and not do anything daft. Like concede a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Anton Ferdinand escaped a handball claim before barely a second later shoving sub Adel Taarabt to the ground, hardly a yard outside the penalty area.
Where Robinson had opted for six in his wall earlier, Green asked for a four-man barrier with Tevez lurking just off it, allowing the keeper a view of the ball.
Tom Huddlestone, though, opted to test the theory that he makes a better door than a window by placing himself in Green’s line of sight.
The keeper had plenty more going on around him, with West Ham strangely deep in their own box. Their cunning plan was to drop Konchesky back on to the line to cover the side behind the wall. It didn’t work.
Berbatov caressed the ball over the wall and just out of Konchesky’s reach. All square again as 90 minutes ticked over.
With four strikers still on the pitch – including Kepa Blanco… google him – and all their substitutes used, West Ham decided that the best form of defence was to attack. Everyone should attack.
When Zamora turned possession over to Spurs just outside the visitors’ box, West Ham had six players in the area and every other player bar one ahead of the ball.
Konchesky, on the halfway line was faced with four Tottenham players sprinting towards him. Harewood tried to give his mate a hand but by then it had become five versus two as Stalteri fed Defoe.
The centre-forward teased Konchesky, who tried to delay the Tottenham charge, but help was too far away.
The threat appeared to be downgraded when Defoe sent in a low shot that appeared to pose little trouble to Green, but the keeper neither caught the ball or diverted it to safety.
Instead, he palmed it straight into Stalteri’s path, who summoned up enough energy after running the length of the pitch to stroke the ball into the ungaurded net.
“Oh no. Oh no,” was Andy Gray’s reaction as bedlam ensued in the away end.
West Ham: Green, Neill, Upson (Davenport 11), Ferdinand, Konchesky, Bowyer, Noble, Quashie (Blanco 80), Etherington (Zamora 83), Tevez, Harewood.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Spector.
Tottenham: Robinson, Chimbonda (Taarabt 87), Dawson, Gardner, Young-Pyo Lee, Lennon, Jenas (Stalteri 57), Tainio, Ghaly (Huddlestone 46), Defoe, Berbatov.
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Rocha.
Tottenham had revenge for their final-day defeat the previous season when a dodgy lasagne ruined their top-four chances. And they left West Ham rooted to the bottom and 10 points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Wigan.
But something must have clicked in the wake of this heartbreaking defeat. West Ham won their next three games and seven of their last nine matches to escape relegation on the final day of the season after beating an under-strength Manchester United side at Old Trafford.
Great escape though it may have been, it stuck in the craw of many outside Upton Park. The Premier League had found the Hammers guilty of acting improperly and withholding vital documentation over the transfers of Tevez and Mascherano, but rather than impose a points deduction that would surely have ended their hopes of staying up, they received a record fine of £5.5million instead.
Buoyant from the outcome, the Hammers went from 19th place with four games remaining to 15th come the final reckoning.
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