Capital One Cup
West Ham United 1-1 Sheffield United (4-5 on penalties, AET)
West Ham United fell to a shock shootout defeat by Sheffield United in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening, as the Sky Bet League One side prevailed 5-4 from the spot to book their place in the last 32.
After the first eight penalties had all been confidently converted, summer signing Enner Valencia was denied by the excellent Mark Howard, allowing visiting skipper Michael Doyle to tuck home the decisive strike from 12 yards.
West Ham had looked to be in control when Diafra Sakho marked his home debut with a maiden goal, but Winston Reid put through his own net after 12 second half minutes to force the extra 30 minutes. But there would be no winner in the additional half hour, leaving Sheffield United to seal victory from the spot.
As expected, manager Sam Allardyce had earlier shuffled his pack, making nine changes to the side that started in the Barclays Premier League at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Of the new faces, there were starts for Valencia, Sakho and Diego Poyet, while Reece Burke was rewarded for his winning cameo against UC Sampdoria with a first competitive outing. Elsewhere, Ravel Morrison made his first appearance of the new campaign, having worked his way back from minor groin surgery over the summer.
A new-look West Ham XI took a little while to hit their straps at the Boleyn Ground and Ricardo Vaz Te's misdirected header, from a Guy Demel centre, was the best they had to offer in the first quarter-of-an-hour.
At the other end, Marc McNulty stole a yard on Reid in the Hammers box, but then scarcely made contact as he hurriedly slashed at goal. Ben Davies swung in the resulting corner and full-back Craig Alcock hooked wide of the near post.
Moments later and Blades 'keeper Mark Howard was forced into a first save, getting down smartly to gather Valencia's fiercely driven strike from 20 yards. Poyet was next to try his luck, unleashing a dipping volley from the edge of the D that rose a yard or two over Howard's crossbar.
The chances, now, continued to come. Mohamed Diame set Valencia free, who was again foiled by an excellent Howard stop, on this occasion at his near post. And the busy 'keeper was back in action after 35 minutes, flinging himself to his left to palm a Morrison free-kick around the post. Morrison jogged across to take the corner in front of the East Stand and watched on as Burke's goalbound header was, just, forced behind by a scurrying Howard.
But the Blades custodian was finally beaten when Sakho met Burke's right-wing centre and glanced a perfect header over the Blades keeper to open the scoring and his Hammers account. Sakho very nearly turned provider before the half was out, brilliantly bringing the ball under his spell and squaring for Valencia, who, on the slide, was agonisingly close to applying a touch.
The second half, much like the first, began quietly and the Blades made the most of an indifferent start, bagging the equaliser after 57 minutes. A cross from the left glanced off McNulty's head and Reid, unable to adjust his feet, inadvertently stabbed goalward and wide of a wrong-footed Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Now with their tails up, the hosts might have completed the turnaround but Chris Basham headed well wide of Jaaskelainen's right-hand upright from a Bob Harris centre.
A first West Ham change followed, as Sakho was replaced by Stewart Downing and the pendulum almost instantly swung back towards the hosts. West Ham's No11 firstly crossed for Reid, whose first-time effort flashed beyond the near post, before a ball to the back post this time was met by an acrobatic Vaz Te and blocked behind.
With little more than ten minutes to play, Alcock made his presence felt from another set-piece, heading a right-wing corner narrowly over the top. Seconds later and Saturday's hero Mauro Zarate joined the fray in place of Vaz Te, as the Hammers sought a route into the last 32. And it so nearly came via Downing's wand of a left foot as he measured one up from 25 yards and forced Howard, at full stretch, to tip it over the top.
Substitute Zarate then worried Howard, as he spilled the Argentine's drive, albeit Valencia was unable to make anything of the rebound. Valencia was presented with an even better chance in the 88th minute, when Demel's knockdown sat up kindly for the Ecuadorian but a Blades block kept the visitors in it.
So to extra time and Zarate looked the most likely for the men in Claret and Blue, as Allardyce made his final switch with the introduction of Mark Noble for Morrison. Jamal Campbell-Ryce's mazy run ended in a blocked short on the edge of the box, before Valencia's effort at the other end suffered a similar fate, flicking off a Sheffield shirt and flying well wide.
A nervous moment for Jaaskelainen followed, as Jay McEveley's bobbler almost squirmed through the Hammers stopper, with Noble thankfully on hand to hack clear of harm's way.
Upon the restart, Noble's deep free-kick nearly deceived Howard, who was ultimately grateful to claw it beyond the far post. Then, having been teed up by Poyet, Noble's effort looked a good one, but cannoned into the limbs of James Wallace.
Valencia blasted a free-kick goalward in the dying minutes and though it moved in the air, proved no trouble for Howard. That was it for the added 30, with spot-kicks to decide the winners.
As it transpired, the first eight spot-kicks were almost nerveless. Noble got the ball rolling for the hosts, with Davies doing likewise for the Sheffield side. Then Downing, Neill Collins, Zarate, McNulty, Poyet and McEveley were each faultless, handing responsibility to Valencia. The Ecuador man opted to go down the middle and, having motioned to his right, Howard comfortably kept it out, before Doyle sent Jaaskelainen the wrong way.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Burke, Potts, Poyet, Diame, Morrison (98), Sakho (Downing 63), Vaz Te (Zarate 80), Valencia
Subs: Spiegel, Oxford, Lee, Page
Goal: Sakho 40
Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock, Harris (McEveley 72), Basham, Flynn (Campbell-Ryce 84), Doyle, Baxter (Wallace 100), McNulty, Collins, Davies, McGahey
Subs: Turner, Wallace, Murphy, Higdon, Reed
Goal: Reid o.g. 57
Referee: James Linington
West Ham bow out of League Cup
Capital One Cup