Hammers Beaten By Cole Brace

TWO goals from Andy Cole saw Hammers lose their unbeaten away record to Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium, going down 2-1.

Bobby Zamora grabbed a late consolation for West Ham United, but they were beaten by an excellent attacking performance from the home side and a well-taken brace from Cole either side of half-time.

Pards kept faith with the team that drew 1-1 with Sunderland. Roy Carroll recovered sufficiently from a hairline fracture of the thumb to play, while Danny Gabbidon, Yossi Benayoun, Anton Ferdinand and Nigel Reo-Coker all returned from international duty to take their places.

For City, former Hammer David James starts in goal and Teddy Sheringham's former Manchester United strike partner Andrew Cole plays up front.

There was a warm greeting between Stuart Pearce and Alan Pardew before kick-off, a reflection of the respect these two young English managers have for each other. Pearce was also found shaking plenty of hands on the West Ham United bench, familiar faces from his time at the Club four years ago including Christian Dailly, Shaka Hislop and Kit Manager Eddie Gillam.

Backed by another excellent band of travelling Hammers fans, Pards' men made a determined start. But the first effort on goal went to the home side on four minutes when Darius Vassell swung wildly at a shot from the edge of the area and scuffed the effort well wide.

On 11 minutes a great piece of last ditch defending from Benayoun was needed to keep City out. A corner was swung over by Kiki Musampa for Danny Mills and his downward header was poked off the goal-line by the Israel international at the far post.

But with 17 minutes played there was nothing the Hammers defence could do about a magnificent Andy Cole strike which gave Manchester City the lead. Vassell took on Ferdinand only to be held up by the West Ham defender.

But his cute back-heel found Cole in space and that was all the veteran striker needed to curl a wonderful effort over Carroll and into the far corner of the net.

Hammers were struggling to hold onto possession, while City looked at their fluent best.

With 25 minutes gone it was Konchesky's turn to spare Hammers as a slip by Tomas Repka released Musampa down the City left. He got to the by-line and crossed low, but Konchesky hooked the ball away from the lurking Cole at the back post.

Marlon Harewood did have a good opportunity for West Ham as the half hour mark approached and he really should have made contact with Matty Etherington's low cross after good work from Teddy Sheringham.

It was all City though, and first Stephen Ireland then Mills tested Carroll with stinging long-range drives which the Hammers goalkeeper did well to stop. At the other end, home captain Sylvain Distin was in dominant form.

Just before the half-time whistle Konchesky made another excellent goal-line clearance, heading Nedum Onuoha's header to safety.

A glimmer of hope for Hammers was the strong performance of Anton Ferdinand at the back who was doing everything to repel the City attack, but half-time could not come quickly enough for West Ham and Pards would have to coax something far more impressive from his team to turn this game in the second-half.

HT: 0-1

Needing a fresh injection of ideas for the second-half, Pards introduced Christian Dailly for Tomas Repka at right-back.

But it was still City asking all the questions and Cole should have done better than shoot straight at Carroll from just outside the penalty spot.

On 48 minutes though Hammers fashioned a great chance when Harewood's neat backheel released Etherington and he charged into the box only to be foiled by David James who saved well at the winger's feet.

Just a minute later Darius Vassell had almost a carbon-copy chance at the other end when he broke clear but was denied by Carroll who came out and spread himself well.

On 53 minutes Vassell got clear again, but this time his shot was hit tamely at Carroll who made a routine save at his near post. And on 55 minutes City extended their advantage with another goal from Cole.

It owed much to the work of Vassell who rested possession from Hayden Mullins on the edge of the box and fed Musampa. His shot on the angle was well parried by Carroll but the ball feel straight at the feet of Cole who made no mistake with the goal at his mercy to make it 2-0.

Just after the re-start Benayoun did well to connect with Etherington's cross on the volley at the back post, but the angle was too tight and his shot simply ruffled the side-netting.

Musampa did just the same off an angled drive on 66 minutes for City, which prompted Pards to bring on Bobby Zamora in place of Teddy Sheringham, who hardly received the most positive of receptions from the home fans on his return to Manchester.

Zamora quickly saw a chance when Reo-Coker slipped him the ball in a good position only to blaze high and wide, and the striker did the same again having played himself in with a neat one-two.

On 81 minutes Shaun Newton replaced Matty Etherington, as Hammers switched to three at the back and made one final, determined push for a way back into the game.

It might have come with five minutes left when Mullins lofted an excellent ball over the top for Benayoun to chase. Unfortunately, James got their first, sliding at the Israeli's feet to knock the ball to safety.

As injury-time approached Hammers finally found the goal they had been searching for. It was a simple, yet effective move, Benayoun splitting the City defence and Zamora racing clear to round James and pass comfortably into the empty net.

At 2-1 a West Ham comeback looked briefly possible, but City held on to inflict only Hammers second Premiership defeat of the season and their first on the road.