Hammers Opening Day Heroics

WEST Ham United have taken all three points on their Premiership return against Blackburn Rovers with a 3-1 win at Upton Park.

Second-half goals from Teddy Sheringham, Nigel Reo-Coker and Matty Etherington cancelled out Andy Todd's first-half opener to spark joyous scenes at Upton Park as Hammers claimed an opening day win.

Packed with a crowd of 33,305 the Boleyn Ground crackled with an atmosphere more than fit to mark West Ham United's return to the Premier League. A rousing chorus of Bubbles greeted Alan Pardew's Premier League stars as they took to the pitch for what would be Hammers first Premiership appearance since May 2003.

Pards handed competitive claret and blue debuts to Roy Carroll in goal, Danny Gabbidon and Paul Konchesky in defence and Yossi Benayoun in midfield.

Hayden Mullins started in midfield while Christian Dailly captained the side from right-back.  Nigel Reo-Coker, Benayoun and Matty Etherington made up the rest of the Hammers engine room, while in attack Teddy Sheringham earned his first start since April alongside Marlon Harewood.

Hammers didn't take long to get used to their new surroundings. Only four minutes in fact, as Nigel Reo-Coker finished a high-octane run with an incisive through ball that Marlon Harewood surged onto. But the big striker could only drag his shot across goal and wide with just Brad Friedel to beat.

For Blackburn, Steven Reid blazed a 25 yard effort well over on nine minutes as the visitors displayed their usual competitive verve without troubling debutant Roy Carroll.

On 11 minutes Paul Konchesky, making a dream debut for the Club he has supported all his life, had to be alert to head a deflected free-kick from Robbie Savage out for a corner.

The opening 15 minutes of West Ham United's Premiership return were played at a frenetic pace, and Carroll had to be alert to clear under pressure from Shefki Kuqi after Dailly's short back-pass.

But on 18 minutes it was Blackburn who made the first breakthrough of the game. Morten Gamst Pedersen put in a corner that Hammers failed to clear, allowing Andy Todd to shoot low past Carroll and give the visitors the lead.

Hammers looked to hit back straight away, Harewood's turn of pace luring Savage into a horrible tackle that rightly earned the Blackburn midfielder a booking. The Hammers striker then did well to force his way to the by-line but his cross could only pick out Lucas Neill who calmly chested back to his goalkeeper.

Savage was involved in more controversy minutes later when he clashed quite legitamately with Konchesky on the by-line and went crashing into the advertising boards in front of the Centenary Stand. 

On 34 minutes a precise through-ball from Sheringham released Harewood, who beat the on-rushing Friedel to the ball on the edge of the box. Forced wide and with the Blackburn goalkeeper hopelessly out of position Harewood tried to cross, but could only find Andy Todd, who cleared the danger.

Moments later Matty Etherington's low pass found Sheringham with time and space just outside the box, but his shot was saved by Friedel down low to his left.

The Blackburn goalkeeper then did well to hold onto Reo-Coker's inswinging cross from the left with Etherington sliding in, before a dipping 20 yard shot from Sheringham edged just wide of Friedel's left-hand post.

With five minutes of the half remaining Konchesky crossed low from the left for Benayoun who slid in and distracted Friedel enough for the ball to come back off the Blackburn 'keeper. The ball broke loose for Sheringham but his low drive was blocked by a desperate melee of visiting defenders on the penalty spot.

Hammers finished the half with quite a flurry, but there was no way through a stubborn Blackburn defence and Alan Pardew's men went in after their first 45 minutes of the season trailing 1-0.

HT: 0-1

West Ham United came out for the second-half and within a minute of the re-start Alan Pardew's men were back on level terms to the delight of the Upton Park crowd.

Yossi Benayoun picked up the ball on the right and went on a jinking run, cutting inside to feed Teddy Sheringham and after the ball deflected off the foot of a Rovers defender, Teddy drilled his finish low past Friedel to make it 1-1.

Moments later Marlon Harewood had a snap shot from the edge of the box fly wide, as Alan Pardew's men responded to a crescendo of noise from the Hammers faithful and upped the tempo of this match.

On 52 minutes, and with the Boleyn Ground on its feet, Etherington powered past Lucas Neill on the left and cut in a low cross that found Sheringham arriving, but his faint touch could only deflect it wide of Friedel's goal.

Mark Hughes' response to West Ham's rampant dominance was to introduce defender Vratislav Gresko for striker Shefki Kuqi as he decided that a point might well satisfy his team from their trip to East London.

In the 59th minute Paul Konchesky was called upon to make his second goal-line clearance of the match, heading Andy Todd's effort away from danger at the right-hand post.

But Hammers were in full flow by now and just past the hour mark took a deserved lead through a piece of individual brilliance from Nigel Reo-Coker.

The ball was worked to the midfielder 20 yards out and dead centre of goal. Rovers defence backed away and Reo-Coker pulled the trigger with sublime results as he sent a magnificent drive rocketing into the top left corner of the net, leaving Fridel with no chance and sending Upton Park wild.

Reo-Coker was driving Hammers forward and on 65 minutes his pass found Harewood just inside the box, but he pulled his shot wide.

On 71 minutes a full-blooded display from Sheringham came to an end when he was replaced by Shaun Newton, but the standing ovation received by the former England striker will have rung in his ears for some time afterwards.

Hammers were in control and underlined their superiority with 11 minutes remaining when Benayoun picked up a missed placed pass on the touchline and squared the ball for Matty Etherington who arrived to complete the simplest of tap-ins and make it 3-1.

The goal unleashed an incredible atmosphere inside the Boleyn Ground, which overcame substitute Paul Dickov with 10 minutes remaining when his late challenge on Konchesky earned the striker a straight red-card.

Mark Noble came on to get a taste of the Premiership action on 83 minutes as Hammers began to enjoy themselves against a ragged looking Rovers.

With just two minutes remaining Andy Todd hit a volley straight at Roy Carroll, before Bellamy sped inside Konchesky to send a shot skimming just wide of the Northern Ireland international's right hand post.

Hammers saw out the three added minutes with possession football and might have added a fourth had Noble been able to get onto the end of Reo-Coker's pass or if Newton had kept his shot down from just inside the box.

Still, Alan Pardew's men had done more than enough and the final whistle was met with fantastic celebrations at Upton Park as Hammers recorded three points on their return to Premier League football with a magnificent 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.