Under pressure Avram Grant saw his West Ham side beat Birmingham City 2-1 in the first leg of their English League Cup semi-final.
West Ham took a deserved lead on 13 minutes when Mark Noble drove a ferocious shot through a throng of Birmingham bodies to make it one nil. West Ham continued to pile on the pressure but they could not get a second goal past Ben Foster as denied Spector, James Tomkins and, most impressively, Obinna all in the first half.
It was a different Birmingham side that came out in the second half and within 10 minutes they were level. Liam Ridgewell thundered a header home from a Sebastian Larsson’s corner.
You could feel the anxiety level at Upton Park rise after the goal, and those nerves where made worse when Victor Obinna was sent off for flicking his heel between the legs of Larsson off the ball.
But Birmingham failed to take advantage of the 10-man Hammers and they were punished 13 minutes from time when Carlton Cole fired a tame right-foot shot towards the middle of Foster’s goal, which somehow the City keeper allowed to trickle through his legs and into the back of the net. A terrible howler and one that gives the Hammers a 2-1 aggregate lead to take to St. Andrews on 26 January.
The winners of this semi-final will meet either Arsenal or Ipswich Town, who begin their tie on Wednesday night, in next month’s Wembley final, which carries a UEFA Europa League berth.
photo credit: johnlew123