West Ham United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1: Benayoun strike shatters Spurs' European dream

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The Independent Online

Tottenham may not have had the stomach for a fight yesterday but there was no doubting West Ham's desire to begin FA Cup final week with a victory. Taking full advantage of their discomfited opponents the Hammers demonstrated they have enough quality to leave Liverpool feeling just as sick next week if the European Champions do not pay them full respect.

A fine goal from Darren Fletcher, which probably secured him a place in Cardiff on Saturday, as deputy for the suspended Hayden Mullins, put West Ham ahead.

Jermain Defoe, on his first return to Upton Park, levelled but, even though Paul Robinson saved a penalty from Teddy Sheringham, West Ham secured victory through another expertly taken goal by Yossi Benayoun.

"We were superb today. Even if Tottenham had not been under the weather I think we would have won," said Pardew. Tottenham's squad is substantial enough to cope with most things and it could be argued they were as badly affected by the injuries which robbed them of Ledley King, Jermain Jenas and Mido as by the after-effects of a dodgy meal. The fact Danny Murphy, an England international of recent vintage, was left on the bench while six apparently debilitated players played also weakens any claim they may have to replay the fixture. Certainly those England cricketers who have had to soldier on through bouts of diarrhoea in the sub-Continent will have little sympathy.

West Ham's opening goal owed more to a lapse in concentration than any stomach upset. Stephen Kelly played a loose pass inside towards Teemu Tainio who was easily dispossessed by Fletcher. The Welshman advanced unchallenged then unleashed a 25-yard drive which swerved away from Paul Robinson to nestle inside the far post.

Tottenham's equaliser was a sweet moment for Defoe, whose every touch had been booed. He had not scored for nine matches but there was no lack of confidence as he took a clever pass from Carrick, turned Anton Ferdinand, and swept his shot past Shaka Hislop. A timely goal with Sven Goran Eriksson due to name his provisional World Cup squad today.

Aaron Lennon, though given limited opportunities by Spurs' inability to sustain pressure, also impressed again with his wit, intelligence and ability. If Shaun Wright-Phillips pips him to a World Cup place it will not be on form.

West Ham ought to have regained the lead shortly after the break. Teddy Sheringham volleyed Shaun Newton's deep cross back across goal and Tainio brought down Bobby Zamora as he shaped to shoot. However, Robinson, moving early and forward, grasped Sheringham's ill-directed spot-kick.

With West Ham playing with the freedom and enthusiasm of men who knew the result did not matter, but wanted to win nevertheless, and Spurs with increasing desperation, the match opened up.

Zamora failed even to shoot when left one-on-one with Young-Pyo Lee, then tested Robinson from range; Defoe both shot and chipped over; Shaka Hislop denied Robbie Keane and Tainio shot wide.

Then, with 10 minutes left, West Ham got bodies into the box, Marlon Harewood released Benayoun with a clever back-heel, and the Israeli slalomed past Michael Dawson to score.

The Hammers crowd, which had thoughtfully kept the away support abreast of Arsenal's second-half goals, chorused "Champions' League, you're having a laugh".

As for West Ham's own sicklist, Dean Ashton will have a fitness test on his hamstring strain on Thursday. "If he feels it then he is out," said Pardew. "Matthew Etherington's chances are slimmer," added the manager of the winger, who has an ankle injury, "but we'll give him until two o'clock on Saturday."

Goals: Fletcher (10) 1-0; Defoe (35) 1-1; 2-1 Benayoun (80) 2-1.

West Ham United (4-4-1-1): Hislop; Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Newton, Reo-Coker, Fletcher, Benayoun (K Reid, 85); Sheringham (Harewood, 67); Zamora.

Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Dailly, Collins.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Kelly, Dawson, Gardner, Lee (Barnard, 77); Lennon, Tainio (Davenport, 86), Carrick (A Reid, 63), Davids; Keane, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Murphy.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: West Ham United: Newton. Man of the match: Fletcher. Attendance: 34,970.

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