Diamanti sparkles for Gold

West Ham United 2 Birmingham City 0

Alessandro Diamanti produced a goal from a free-kick that was worth the admission money on its own, but he might still be wondering whether it was also enough to merit his wage packet remaining intact.

Keeping a close check on the money is the watchword at Upton Park now David Sullivan and David Gold are in charge, especially after the pair inherited £100m-plus of debts from the previous regime. Sullivan went public on his plans to enforce pay cuts on everyone, manager Gianfranco Zola and his players included. Zola voiced his disapproval, mainly because it was so close to an important match, and Sullivan then had to deny reports the Italian was about to be replaced by Mark Hughes should Birmingham win.

But the Blues, the club Sullivan and Gold left earlier in the season after 16 years in charge, suffered a rare defeat and the three points were enough to lift West Ham all the way up to 14th, and that was all that mattered, with Sullivan having prophesied financial "Armageddon" to follow should West Ham go down.

Zola was adamant afterwards that his chairman had every right to say what he liked but refused to admit his words had inspired the players.

"Whether it was that that helped or it was something else it doesn't matter," he said. "The important thing was we won the game. I was just making a point and the chairman was, too. I'm doing my job, the chairman's doing his job and so is the team. I have no problem with what he said. I didn't take offence, not at all. I'm not a guy who is touchy but I want to be in a position where I can do my job well for this team."

Diamanti's perfectly-struck opener in first-half stoppage time was a double punishment for Birmingham defender Scott Dann, who had been booked for halting Scott Parker's run illegally. The goal galvanised the home side and when Julien Faubert used his pace down the right, Carlton Cole made sure of victory with a smart deflection off his head in the 67th minute.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish claimed he hadn't been too impressed with West Ham in the first half – "they were there for the taking" the Scot said, but he predicted the Gold and Sullivan era would prosper eventually. "They did a good job over a long period of time and I'm sure they will stabilise West Ham," he said.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga (Spector, h-t); Diamanti, Parker (Noble, 86), Kovac, Behrami; Mido (Ilan, 66), Cole. Substitutes not used: Stech (gk), Da Costa, Collison, Stanislas.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Gardner, Ferguson, Bowyer (Michel, 77), Fahey (McFadden, 66); Phillips, Jerome. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Larsson, Parnaby, Vignal, Jervis.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: West Ham Upson; Birmingham Dann, Bowyer.

Man of the Match: Diamanti.

Attendance: 34,458.