Nikola Zigic scored his fourth leaque goal of the season to send West Ham back to the bottom of the Premier League at Upton Park.
In a game largely devoid of any clear-cut chances, the giant Serbian eventually won his aerial battle with Matthew Upson – but only after the Englishman was taken off after half time. Zigic’s 65th minute header means that Birmingham move out of the relegation zone.
Up until that moment, however, West Ham looked like it would be they who would be taking three points from the game. It was only their profligacy in front of goal that prevented them from taking the lead into half time, as both Robbie Keane and Victor Obinna had their chances to score.
The Hammers were forced into a change to their starting line-up in the moments before the game started, with James Tomkins having to withdraw after injuring himself in the warm-up. That meant that Upson was forced to start – himself making his return from injury. However, despite the late change, the London side coped admirably against Birmingham’s attack, David Bentley having Brum’s best chance as the Blues looked to add to their win over the Hammers at St. Andrew’s in the Carling Cup last month.
Zigic’s aerial threat was always apparent, but City’s midfield struggled to link up with the 6ft 8in. htman, Scott Parker and Mark Noble creating the majority of the home side’s chances with some neat passing. However, as the Serbian has shown before this season, he is not one to give up easily on his chances of scoring a goal, and went close five minutes before half time with a headed effort.
With Upson suffering a recurrence of the thigh injury that has kept him out of action for a number of weeks, and will cause him to miss England’s friendly against Denmark in midweek, Manuel Da Costa’s appearance as the Englishman’s replacement seemed to give Zigic more confidence. The Serb was unlucky not to score with another headed effort soon after the break, following great work from Bentley.
And it was the Tottenham loanee that won the free kick that led to Zigic’s goal, going down under pressure from Noble. The delivery was less than perfect, but the lanky striker’s height caused all sorts of problems at the back post, and Rob Green was left helpess as Zigic powered home.
After the goal however, Zigic went back into his shell, having one half-chance towards the end of the game. Avram Grant threw on Carlton Cole and new signing Demba Ba in search of an equaliser, and the latter hit the post late on.
That was as close as they came though, and the Hammers return to the bottom of the Premier League as a result. Alex Mcleish, however, will be hoping Zigic’s future contributions will be as telling as they were today, as they attempt to pull further away from the relegation zone.