Premier League - Zigic helps Blues beat West Ham

Sun, 06 Feb 15:27:00 2011

Birmingham City climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone after a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers West Ham United at Upton Park.

Nikola Zigic headed the only goal of the game in the 65th minute to seal only the Blues' second win over the Hammers in their last nine league meetings.

The Serb's fourth league goal of the season may have been the 42nd strike in the top flight this weekend - breaking the record for a 20-team Premier League - but Birmingham fans will care far more about it sending their team up to 16th in the table.

West Ham, who had three penalty claims turned down by referee Chris Foy, move back to the bottom of the table, below Wolves on goal difference. Wigan also drop into the relegation zone above them.

Both sides went into the game knowing that a win would lift them out of the bottom three. West Ham began the day with an identical record as at the same point last season, with five wins, nine draws and 11 defeats on the board. Birmingham's made was made apparent by the fact that they were 10 points better off at the same point last term.

This was the third meeting between these two sides in less than month, following the Carling Cup semi-final tie in January which saw Birmingham book their place at Wembley.

However, it was the Hammers who looked much the brighter in this match, with Victor Obinna and Robbie Keane on his home debut for West Ham looking especially threatening.

The Irishman found Frederic Piquionne with a classy backheel flick on the edge of the box, but the ball got stuck under the Frenchman's feet and his eventual effort was tame. Moments later Keane found the lively Obinna, who drilled his low effort wide.

At the other end Roger Johnson glanced a header high and wide, but the Blues found chances hard to come by as front pair Cameron Jerome and Nikola Zigic struggled to exert much influence. Zigic in particular was well marshalled by Matthew Upson, a late replacement for James Tomkins who picked up an injury in the warm-up.

West Ham has two appeals for handball inside the box turned down by Foy in the closing moments of the half, with the official ruling that neither Liam Ridgewell nor Johnson could do little to avoid shots from Lars Jacobsen and Obinna respectively hitting their arms at close range.

Upson looked in some discomfort as he continues his recovery from an Achilles injury, and he was replaced at half-time by Manuel da Costa, making his first appearance since October.

Keane had a third West Ham penalty appeal denied when he was barged over by Johnson as he ran through on goal 10 minutes after the restart, but Foy decided it was a fair challenge.

Both managers rolled the dice around the hour mark, with Carlton Cole replacing Piquionne and Sebastian Larsson coming on for Jerome. Cole made an instant impact with a mazy run across the edge of the Birmingham box, but it was Larsson's introduction which proved more telling.

The Dane, who came close to leaving the club during the January transfer window, sent in a wickedly curling free-kick from the left which found Zigic at the far post, and the Serb giant comfortably outjumped Wayne Bridge to nod past Robert Green.

Avram Grant responded by giving Senegal striker Demba Ba his West ham debut, and the former Hoffenheim striker almost rescued a point for his new club with his first touch when he hammered a strike on the turn off the near post.

Da Costa twice went close late on, forcing a low save from Foster with a strike from long range before heading wide of the far post, but Birmingham held on for the win.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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