Hammers take first leg in Cup semifinal

Published Jan. 11, 2011 10:20 p.m. ET

A late howler by Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster gifted 10-man West Ham a 2-1 win on Tuesday to take into the second leg of the teams' Carling Cup semifinal.

The England international let a weak shot from substitute Carlton Cole slip through his grasp and into the net in the 78th minute, just as Birmingham was looking the more likely scorer in an open first leg at Upton Park.

West Ham took the lead through Mark Noble in the 12th minute but imploded early in the second half, with Birmingham equalizing in the 56th through Liam Ridgewell and then seeing the hosts lose winger Victor Obinna to a red card.

Birmingham is at home for the second leg in two weeks' time.

Tournament favorite Arsenal plays second-tier Ipswich in the other semifinal, with the first leg on Wednesday.

The win will be especially pleasing to West Ham co-chairman David Gold, who spent 16 years in control of Birmingham with partner David Sullivan before selling the club to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung in 2009. Gold has since been banned from Birmingham's boardroom following a spat with the club's acting chairman Peter Pannu.

Gold and Sullivan have been under pressure to fire manager Avram Grant, with the Hammers in a perilous position at the foot of the Premier League after more than half a season.


But the owners would have been delighted with the way their team took the match to Birmingham in the first half, with Foster keeping the visitors in the match thanks to a string of fine saves after Noble's strike.

The goal came following the central midfielder's initial surge into the box. His cross was not cleared and when Jonathan Spector's wayward shot fell to Noble, he lashed an effort that was parried into his own net by Foster at the near post.

United States defender Spector then had a long-range shot tipped over by Foster, who also kept out strikes by James Tomkins, Obinna and Freddie Sears before halftime.

The second half was a different story altogether. Birmingham, which lost center back Scott Dann to injury, was much more threatening and equalized when Ridgewell got in front of Winston Reid to head home a corner from Sebastian Larsson.

Obinna then stupidly got himself sent off two minutes later after kicking out at Larsson as he waited to receive a throw-in.

West Ham, twice a runner-up in England's second-tier cup competition and without a trophy in 31 years, was forced to defend in numbers for the rest of the game and grabbed the winner with a rare foray forward.

Spector's cross from the right was met by Cole, whose right-foot shot from 15 yards took a slight deflection off Roger Johnson before squirming through the grasp of the unfortunate Foster.