Ashton seals Hammers' progression
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
West Ham are in the FA Cup semi-final after claiming a 2-1 win over Manchester City.
West Ham are in the FA Cup semi-final after claiming a 2-1 win over a Manchester City side that were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Sun Jihai was red carded.
Dean Ashton will be the toast of East London after his brace secured a safe passage for West Ham, who had the edge over a City outfit that struggled to capture anything like the type of form that has made them a formidable prospect at Eastlands.
Strikes in either half by the England hopeful secured progression for Alan Pardew's exciting young team, while Kizito Musampa made for a frenetic final five minutes when he registered with a wonderfully controlled volley.
The first half was played out in three acts and while the first and last served entertaining fare, the middle section of 35 minutes was uninspired and lacked in terms of either genuine chances or quality.
City had started with plenty of vigour in the tackle and when going forward demonstrated a desire to get numbers in the box, as Musampa was involved in the best two chances of an intriguing first 10 minutes.
Indeed, it took the home side just a minute to draw those in blue to their feet as Musampa's opportunistic snapshot from the edge of the area brought a sprawling save from Shaka Hislop.
The wide man was then left cursing rashness in front of goal as West Ham's defence simultaneously backed off and parted, but when given a clear path to goal Musampa's shot was blazed over.
Darius Vassell and Bradley Wright-Phillips - in for the injured Georgios Samaras - then combined to create a chance for the latter but whilst his first touch was cute the youngster's second lacked power and Hislop gathered easily.
City's hopes of establishing a rhythm to their play took a blow when Stephen Jordan hobbled off with a twisted ankle in the 20th minute, before on the same left side Albert Riera was booked for a wild lunge on Christian Dailly.
West Ham's own forays were few and far between and save for a half-chance that saw James Collins head a corner across goal, Pardew's side looked a shadow of the side that disposed of Bolton in the last round.
But when you have the type of cutting edge provided by a striker of the calibre of Ashton there is always a chance that the merest sighter of goal can yield profitable returns.
When Ashton received possession down City's right five minutes before half-time there was little need for consternation but after nodding the ball towards Matthew Etherington, the England hopeful smelt a chance and made inroads.
Etherington laid off to Nigel-Reo Coker and with the midfielder's touch loose, Ashton took control, swerved past Sylvain Distin with a fine first touch and with his second rammed the ball past David James at his near post with the most assured of finishes.
City responded immediately and after Hislop dropped Riera's fine cross, Sun was unfortunate to see an acrobatic effort cleared off the line by a well-positioned Paul Konchesky.
If the first half only flirted at the idea of being a full-blown cup tie then the second duly delivered. Riera's forays looked dangerous on occasion and it was he that drew the first save with a low effort before at the other end, Etherington smacked the top of City's bar with a delightful looping volley.
Wright-Phillips and Riera again had half chances before in the 55th minute came Sun's moment of ill discipline. A nothing challenge with Etherington ended with Sun raising his hands to cuff the West Ham wide man - who to his credit did not go down - but violent conduct was called and the China international was off.
With holes appearing in City's backline, West Ham went looking for a killer second and within 10 minutes had done just that in bizarre circumstances. Although Dailly was crumbled in a heap down City's left, neither side showed an inclination to put the ball out of play and it was Musampa that committed the cardinal sin in being caught in possession in his own half.
The impressive Reo-Coker claimed possession and after feeding in Yossi Benayoun on the overlap, the playmaker clipped a square ball which a gleeful Ashton dispatched from close range.
Stuart Pearce made the call to push Richard Dunne forward and the Irishman caused plenty of problems for West Ham's backline with his ability in the air. It was though good work with his feet that helped conjure City's goal, as he played in substitute Lee Croft down the right and from the youngster's cross to the edge of West Ham's area, Musampa's stunning volley was lashed past Hislop in some style.
City threw everything at a weary Hammers defence but it was the away side that stood firm and it is West Ham that claimed a just about deserved semi-final place.
|Manchester City||Team Statistics||West Ham United|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|7||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||8|
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