Here was a tie full of drama, fine goals, a lucky one, a cheeky penalty and some brilliant saves. The floodlights may have dimmed in the second half but this was a 90-minute luminous adventure in the old manner; reminiscent of the days when the FA Cup had greater significance and was held in esteem by players and fans alike. Not that there were many hints in the history of ties between these clubs to justify pre-game anticipation of such excitement.
In theory, there was every reason to expect that the outcome would be a draw. After all, in the Premiership, they sit side by side in the table. In their previous two meetings this season, each had achieved a victory. And, over the years, their five meetings in the Cup had resulted in four being drawn. But following a good run of League results, Blackburn were feeling hard done by after being knocked out of the Carling Cup by Manchester United in midweek. A quick response was needed.
And quick it was. West Ham found themselves a goal down after 25 seconds. An aimless clearance by Paul Konchesky landed at the feet of Steven Reid who went forward before passing into the run of Shefki Kuqi. When the centre came, West Ham failed to clear and David Bentley had a virtually empty goal in which to put his tap-in.
Not surprisingly, West Ham responded nervously. Their defending regularly left space and they were fortunate not to suffer a further setback when, after 17 minutes, Robbie Savage drove a dangerous ball deep into their penalty area. Andy Todd's header was strong enough but went directly into the hands of Shaka Hislop. With some effective work from Hayden Mullins, West Ham gradually got to grips with the game but they received a helping hand for their equaliser in the 31st minute. Bobby Zamora was attempting to head a high free-kick from Konchesky when Zurab Khizanishvili put his hands up under pressure and involuntarily touched the ball. Teddy Sheringham coolly dinked the penalty past Brad Friedel.
If there was an element of good fortune in the Hammers' equaliser, there was ample justification for the second goal. Zamora cut inside from the right and slipped a pass to Matthew Etherington, who neatly sent his shot past the oncoming Friedel.
West Ham's goalkeeper, Hislop, who had already made several good but not desperately important saves, then had to perform one that was truly essential. He had just suffered in silence, with the West Ham fans, watching Zamora shoot yards wide at the other end when Aaron Mokoena smashed a shot towards the underside of the bar. Hislop leapt and touched it over.
West Ham swept back upfield. Etherington started the move; played the ball on to Sheringham, who found Konchesky on the left. His fierce low cross seemed to be covered by Friedel but the ball struck Khizanishvili then ricocheted into his own net.
If it seemed that West Ham were about to take control, Blackburn had an answer. A flicked back-heel from Morten Gamst Pedersen allowed Lucas Neill to hit a superb shot past Hislop, who hardly had a chance to blink.
That was in the 65th minute. Seven hectic minutes later and West Ham again seemed to be comparatively safe. Substitute Marlon Harewood had only just arrived when he had a chance to strike a shot at a goal defended only by Friedel who, nevertheless, beat the ball down. Zamora followed up and restored West Ham's marginal comfort.Reuse content