In the 23rd Volume of our weekly Classic Match series, we delve deep into the archives once more to relive a memorable West Ham United encounter from down the years, this time around it comes in the form of an away victory that triggered one of the club’s greatest-ever runs, exactly 11 years ago to the month.
Cast your minds back to the early spring of 2007, “Shine” by Take That was at the very summit of the British Music Charts and the rebuilt Wembley Stadium had just re-opened to the public ahead of a busy few months of footballing action.
Meanwhile, in the world of football and more specifically the Premier League, Alan Curbishley was fighting a losing battle to keep West Ham United in the English Top-Flight, months after replacing Alan Pardew.
The Hammers were in their second season since being promoted from the Championship, but ahead of a Saturday evening trip to Ewood Park in the league had only won five matches all season-long.
Prior to the must-win outing, the Irons had been defeated 3-4 at the Boleyn Ground by fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur the other side of an FA Cup break and sat rock-bottom of the table.
Meanwhile, the hosts, Mark Hughes’ Backburn Rovers’ fortunes were quite the opposite in that campaign, instead of fighting for their lives, they were challenging for European football in the top-half.
Ahead of welcoming the Irons to Lancashire, Rovers were on impressive form, getting the better of Portsmouth at home and Bolton Wanderers away in their previous two league outings, before defeating Manchester City in round six of football’s oldest competition six days earlier.
The key matchup for both teams, for entirely different reasons, was to be played out live on Sky Sports as their late game that day on a chilly March evening at Ewood.
At the announcement of the two starting Xls an hour prior to kick-off, the danger men could be clearly spotted in both sides, the players with the capabilities to impact the match profoundly.
For the home side, these included the likes of prolific South African striker Benni McCarthy and Turkish playmaker Tugay and for the visitors, names such as hungry young Argentinian attacker Carlos Tevez and bright English midfielder Mark Noble.
Against the backdrop of a rowdy Blackburn atmosphere under the lights, the pivotal clash could begin, and the home side would have the better of the play from the off.
Luke Derbyshire, Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Bentley would all go close for Blackburn in the first period, while at the other end, Tevez and partner Marlon Harewood achieved similar things.
Hughes’ men were the more frustrated outfit going in level at the break given their dominance, though it wouldn’t take them long to make the East Londoners pay in the second-half.
Unsurprisingly, Pedersen was the man to make it, swinging in a pin-point corner to the near post where Christopher Samba was waiting to head emphatically past Rob Green, giving the England man no chance
It looked for all the world like Rovers were going to power on and make the game theirs’ after this, but the visiting backline held firm and managed to shut out their further advances.
As a reward for this, Tevez, fouled in the area by Brett Emerton, won them a penalty that he would step out to take against American shot-stopper Brad Friedel.
With the weight of East London on his shoulders, the agile goal-scorer calmly sent him the wrong way and celebrated with the travelling Claret & Blue Army, the comeback was on.
It would take all of four minutes for Curbishley’s men to complete and if the penalty incident for the first goal went down as contentious, the winner would take things to a whole new level.
A corner was met with a dogged goalmouth scramble at the home end, after Friedel had made a number of stops, substitute Bobby Zamora swung an effort goal-bound that beat the defenders and the keeper.
But it didn’t get past Tevez on the line, he had tried to get out of the way of the ball, although it still struck him and came back out, the Officials debated and decided that the ball did cross the line.
While the Hammers wheeled away in frantic celebrations, the home players complained at length, their protests were useless, however, and to rub salt into their wounds, Bentley was dismissed in injury time for a second bookable offence by Referee Howard Webb.
Curbishley’s boys held on that evening amid the controversy for a pivotal three points that lifted them off the foot of the table, while Hughes’ team’s hopes of making it to Europe were severely damaged.
The loss was the first of three defeats in succession for Blackburn that put their European hopes to bed and saw them eventually finish tenth in the division despite a six-game unbeaten run to finish.
The historic away triumph would be ever so significant in the Irons miraculously beating the drop by the skin of their teeth, triggering a run seven victories in nine matches to finish out in 15th, it was dubbed “The Great Escape.”