Rebrov leads own Ukrainian revolution

West Ham United 3 Watford 2
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The Independent Online

Sergei Rebrov has not enjoyed the easiest introduction to life at Upton Park, but it was the Ukrainian who initiated West Ham's redemption from what was threatening to be a dreadful afternoon.

Sergei Rebrov has not enjoyed the easiest introduction to life at Upton Park, but it was the Ukrainian who initiated West Ham's redemption from what was threatening to be a dreadful afternoon.

Before yesterday, he had not scored a League goal for three years, but it was Rebrov, wearing an orange band on his wrist to show his support for pro-Yushchenko demonstrators in Kiev, who was the undoubted inspiration as the Hammers came from two down. Having won a 28th-minute free-kick, he sent it skidding low round the wall, and, when Richard Lee parried, Nigel Reo-Coker rolled the ball into the empty net. Two minutes later, West Ham were level, Darren Powell thumping home Matthew Etherington's right-wing corner.

Rebrov, suddenly inspired, could even have given West Ham the lead before half-time, cutting in from the left only for his shot to flash into the side-netting. No matter: it was destined to be his day, and he added the winner 13 minutes into the second half, arriving unmarked at the back post to slam home Etherington's cross from the left.

"It was a fantastic performance by Sergei because obviously there are a lot of problems in Ukraine after the elections," his manager, Alan Pardew, said. "He's been in touch with his family and scoring the winning goal was his way of sending a message. That was the most creative he's been for us. He's finally done in a match what we've seen him doing in training."

If it is baffling why a player of such obvious and proven talent has not done so before, it was just as much of a mystery how West Ham had found themselves two down in the first place. Pardew was barracked by fans during last week's defeat at Millwall, but he has maintained of late that West Ham's major problem is that they have not been taking chances, while their opponents have scored seemingly at will. The excuse is one that smacks of desperation, but for 21 minutes yesterday it was easy to see what he meant.

Watford scored with their first meaningful attack, Brynjar Gunnarsson lashing home Neil Ardley's cross from the edge of the box, and they scored with their second too, Bruce Dyer muscling Tomas Repka off the ball before lobbing Stephen Bywater. They nearly scored with their third as well, but Sean Dyche's last-minute header bounced up and off the angle of post and bar.

If Rebrov, given another chance thanks to Marlon Harewood's suspension and Teddy Sheringham's thigh injury, has shaken off his diffidence, though, concerns must remain about Bobby Zamora. Even with the score at 2-2 and the momentum firmly in the home team's favour, Zamora, presented with a shooting chance from Luke Chadwick's cut-back, opted to lay the ball off for Steve Lomas.

His nervousness is part of a more general feeling at the club. It is not just that their fans seem not quite able to comprehend that they are no longer a Premiership club; with their parachute payments set to run out at the end of this season, West Ham have a financial imperative to return to the top flight sooner rather than later.

Much remains to be done before that happens, but with Rebrov firing, and luck at last on their side, yesterday was a significant step in the right direction.

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