West Ham United 3 Tottenham Hotspur 4

Last updated : 04 March 2007 By Footymad Previewer
Late, late goals by Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Stalteri almost certainly condemned the hapless Hammers to the drop in this topsy-turvy London derby that saw West Ham recklessly surrender valuable leads in each half.

Indeed not even first-ever Premiership strikes from Mark Noble and Carlos Tevez, plus a late Bobby Zamora header, could give the East Enders the victory they so desperately needed in their Everest-like task to avoid relegation as Jermain Defoe, Teemu Tainio, Berbatov and Stalteri cut the safety ropes.

When these two sides met in the final game of last season, a mysterious stomach bug saw the Champions League dreams of woefully weak Tottenham Hotspur flushed down the loo, as a result of their defeat to Alan Pardew's FA Cup finalists.

But ten months on, it was West Ham United who came into this game knowing that their campaign has well and truly gone down the drain.

Facing a Premier League inquiry over the signings of Tevez and Javier Mascherano, torn apart by tales of dressing room anarchy and finding his side rooted to the bottom of the Premiership, Alan Curbishley had endured an unlucky 13-game baptism of fire since his arrival in mid-December.

Following the Hammers' forlorn four-goal defeat at Charlton last weekend, the beleaguered boss could, at least, recall a couple of his transfer window signings as Lucas Neill and Matthew Upson returned alongside Lee Bowyer, Noble and Marlon Harewood.

And with the Upton Park crowd demanding that the East Enders at least go down with some fight, there were no early complaints as local lad Noble forced Paul Robinson to parry his stinging 20-yarder before being booked for aqua-planing through Hossam Ghaly.

In the opposite dug-out, Martin Jol, who has steered his side to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup quarter-finals, had made three changes as ex-Hammer Defoe returned in place of the suspended Robbie Keane, while Anthony Gardner and Ghaly came in for Ricardo Rocha and Didier Zokora.

Certainly, it would have been all double-Dutch to the Spurs' boss as West Ham started with an unquestionably urgency so absent in many games this season.

But after record-signing Upson hobbled away with just 11 minutes on the clock having failed to make it to the interval in either of his two Hammers' starts, Berbatov then forced Robert Green into point-blank saves.

West Ham were in the mood, though, and on the quarter-hour mark Paul Konchesky's cross was chested down by Tevez and this time young Noble went one better, when he slammed a low 18-yarder past the outstretched right palm of the sprawling Robinson.

In reply, Berbatov again forced Green into another brilliant block after the Hammers' 'keeper had brilliantly clawed out Bowyer's wayward slice towards his own goal.

But this was to be the Hammers' half and when Michael Dawson upended Tevez on the edge of the Spurs' area, five minutes before the break, the Argentinian ace brushed off the mud and curled a delicious curling free-kick in off the crossbar, before ripping off his shirt and hurdling into an equally ecstatic crowd at the expense of an inevitable booking.

Tottenham replaced Ghaly with Tom Huddlestone for the start of the second half and within just five minutes they had grabbed a lifeline when Bowyer carelessly lunged at Aaron Lennon inside the box, leaving Defoe to drill the penalty home.

And then midway through the second half, it got yet worse for wobbling West Ham when Berbatov's deep cross was cleverly back-heeled by an airborne Lennon, who invited the in-rushing Tainio to let fly with a low 15-yarder that comfortably beat Green.

Amazingly, having suffered that body blow, the Hammers battled their way back off the ropes and with just five minutes left, substitute Zamora out-jumped Tainio to meet Tevez's free-kick with a looping header that surely put West Ham on the way to victory.

But having just scored against his old club with his first touch, Hammers' top-scorer - like the home fans - could only watch in horror as Berbatov levelled with an 89th-minute, 18-yard free-kick that flew over the wall and Konchesky's head to level.

And having just seen three points turn to one, even the draw then disappeared when substitute Stalteri tapped home the winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time, after the breaking Defoe saw his shot parried by the helplessly exposed Green.