Press Association match report

Eyal Berkovic ensured renegade East Ender Paul Ince left his first love with nothing except "Judas" jibes as the Hammers found a silver lining to their black September cloud. Israeli schemer Berkovic had helped Harry Redknapp's men take the lead utterly against the run of play in the first half when his right-footer rebounded off the post for John Hartson to slide home.

The watching Glenn Hoddle was then given the strongest of nudges before Monday's announcement of the England squad for the World Cup clash in Italy when Robbie Fowler crashed home a wonder volley in the 52nd minute.

Fowler, who had missed two clear openings before the break, then chipped against the bar and had a penalty claim rejected by referee Dermot Gallagher.

But in the 65th minute former Everton man David Unsworth, judged not guilty by Gallagher, pumped forward in search of big Hartson. The Welshman's header came off Ince's toe to run across the edge of the Liverpool box and up stepped Berkovic to smash past David James and into the bottom corner.

After that the Hammers lived on the nerves, Unsworth somehow clearing a certain goal off Fowler's toe and substitute Karlheinz Riedle's diving header a coat of paint wide.

But after four straight losses in the month Redknapp will not care how his team grabbed three points, only that they have - and Roy Evans must wonder how his team had lost.

At the outset, with Liverpool stroking the ball about casually, the home fans had seemed more interested in abusing Ince than anything taking place on the park.

Eight years might be a long time, but the grudges are deep in this corner of East London, and Ince bore the brunt. "Judas", "Stand up if you hate Paul Ince" and "You're scum and you know you are" hardly made for a warm welcome, nor did an unpunished tackle from behind from Iain Dowie.

But Ince would not have minded running the gauntlet of hate if his side had taken advantage of their early dominance. They should have done, and Fowler missed an absolute sitter in the sixth minute, the sort of opening England cannot afford to squander in Rome.

When Stig Bjornebye crossed from the left the striker was utterly unmarked 10 yards out, but with all the time in the world at his disposal, he could only head at the grateful Ludek Miklosko.
That was not the only chance, Patrik Berger flashing wide from 25 yards and then seeing a free-kick tipped over by Miklosko.

And so the Hammers' 16th minute goal was even more of a shock, although Liverpool only had themselves to blame. When the ball fell to Berkovic he had six yellow shorts between him and the goal. But they all backed off, allowing the Israeli time to shoot right-footed from 20 yards. It was not his best strike, but still good enough to beat James and come back off the post for Hartson to claim his fifth of the season.

Even after Hartson had struck Liverpool had the upper hand. Fowler headed wide from Berger, before the Czech produced an identikit repeat of his earlier raking left-footer, Miklosko again beaten as the ball went past his right hand post.

And yet suddenly the Merseysiders stopped playing, and Redknapp's team picked up the baton.
Andy Impey, finally a Hammer after four months, began to probe and then forced a diving tip over from James, and Bjornebye must have been relieved when the clearest of pushes from behind on Hartson in the 38th minute was not spotted.

Liverpool were not much better in the opening minutes of the second half, before Fowler's moment of brilliance appeared to have turned the game on its head. Unsworth seemed to have done enough to clear Bjornebye's left-wing centre, but Fowler needed just a fraction of a second to set himself and arrow the ball into the top corner.

Now it was all Liverpool again. Owen was fractionally wide and then a typically surging Ince run - accompanied as ever by the boos - ended with a pass to Fowler, whose chip beat Miklosko all ends up only to bounce back off the bar. Fowler then claimed a penalty after going down under an Unsworth challenge, before Berkovic provided the day's second bolt from the claret and blue.

Even so, Liverpool looked set to level again instantly, Owen's pace taking him clear with Fowler poised to convert two yards out before Unsworth appeared from nowhere to hack away from under his own bar. Ince also had appeals for a spot-kick rejected as Evans threw on Jason McAteer, Danny Murphy and Riedle.

Frank Lampard might have settled it after linking with Hartson, although Riedle was left wondering how his diving header had not converted McAteer's cross nine minutes from time.
West Ham were not bothered, the final whistle giving them licence to barrack Ince again. They did, mercilessly. After all, their team had won.

Copyright - Press Association

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