Birmingham beats relegation rival West Ham 1-0

BY foxsports • February 6, 2011

Birmingham climbed out of the relegation zone on Sunday after Nikola Zigic clinched a 1-0 victory at bottom-place West Ham.

Zigic took advantage of Wayne Bridge's slack marking to head home from Sebastian Larsson's free kick in the 65th minute and put Birmingham a point above the bottom three.

Demba Ba came close to grabbing a late equalizer after coming off the bench to make his West Ham debut, with the striker hitting the post from a tight angle.

''It was a massive game, a six-pointer, and we came out with a scrappy goal and won the game,'' Birmingham defender Roger Johnson said. ''We were dying on our feet at the end and the ball kept coming back but thankfully we got the three points, we nicked a 1-0 and a clean sheet.''

The match was an opportunity for West Ham to avenge its League Cup semifinal loss to Birmingham last month.

Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster, whose blunder gifted West Ham a first-leg lead in that semifinal, started nervously, punching an early cross from Gary O'Neil clear when it appeared easier to catch the ball.

The England goalkeeper then came out to snatch the ball from Frederic Piquionne's feet after he was put through by the in-form Victor Obinna.

After a quiet opening 15 minutes, West Ham started to pressure the visitors' goal.

On-loan Tottenham striker Robbie Keane played Piquionne in with a clever backheel but the former Portsmouth striker could only fire a tame curling shot at Foster.

Obinna, who had scored five times in his previous two matches before Sunday, then struck a 25-yard (meter) effort just wide and Scott Parker threatened with a dangerous low cross that was hooked clear.

West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green was called into action for the first time when he collected a low shot from Lee Bowyer on the half-hour.

Jerome beat Green to a header from a corner soon after but the former Cardiff striker could only glance wide.

Johnson beat Piquionne to a cross but flashed a free header over the bar from 10 yards.

The Hammers felt they should have been awarded a penalty just before half time when Lars Jacobsen's strike hit Liam Ridgewell on the arm but referee Chris Foy turned down their appeal.

Obinna had an appeal for another spot kick turned down moments later when his shot hit Johnson on the arm in the box and Keane volleyed over under pressure in stoppage time.

Birmingham started the second period brightly and Bentley found the towering Zigic at the back post but he headed wide.

The Birmingham manager brought Larsson on for Jerome in the 57th minute and Grant replaced Piquionne with Carlton Cole soon after.

The West Ham fans were getting frustrated with their team's scrappy play and their hopes were further dashed when Zigic scored.

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