West Ham United 2
- Diamanti 45,
- Cole 67
Birmingham City 0
**Gianfranco Zola might not have been shown too much love from West Ham's new owners, but there can be no doubt the players have a big soft spot for their boss.
The manner in which Zola was mobbed by his team after Alessandro Diamanti led the charge in the direction of the dug-out, following his stunning free-kick, spoke volumes.
This game was overhung by the comments of the new joint chairman of West Ham United David Sullivan, who the day before announced that all the playing staff would have to take a 25 per cent cut come the summer.
Strange motivating tactics indeed, not appreciated by manager Zola, who questioned the timing.
Sullivan would no doubt claim his intervention brought the response required as the team put together a workman-like performance to overcome a dangerous Birmingham side.
The first half was pretty even with both sides having their chances.
A rasping drive from Alessandro Diamanti had Joe Hart at full stretch, while Cameron Jerome got clear through on the West Ham goal and should have done better.
The decisive turning point in the game came at the end of the first half when West Ham's Scott Parker went on a jinking run, only to be hauled down by Scott Dann on the edge of the penalty area.
Diamanti stepped up to strike a perfect curling free kick into the top right-hand corner.
The goal seemed to give West Ham the confidence they had lacked.
This was rewarded in the 67th minute when Valon Behrami put Julien Faubert in on an overlapping run down the right.
The full-back pulled the ball back from the byline for Carlton Cole to nod home.
West Ham then took some of the steam out of the game, playing possession football and the Birmingham threat faded.
The result owed much to the industry of the home team's midfield with Behrami, Parker, Robert Kovac and Diamanti all putting in good performances.
Mido also made a promising home debut.
Manager Zola clearly felt the performance vindicated his management style.
He denied the exuberant celebration that greeted Diamanti’s goal - with the scorer and four other players running over to hug the manager - was a gesture of defiance to the new owner.
"The celebration was not a sign to the new owner. We stick together, players, staff, who all want the team to succeed,” said Zola. "We care about this club and want to be successful. I made my point (with the chairman)."
Zola did though admit that Sullivan's remarks may have galvanised the team to action on the night. "This team is only playing to 70 per cent of its potential.
"When it gets more composure we will see more," said Zola.
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish would not be drawn on what it was like to work for messrs Sullivan and Gold, saying only that he had "a decent relationship" when they ran Birmingham and he "respected them."
"They did a good job at Birmingham and I am sure they will stabilise West Ham," said McLeish.
West Ham (4-4-2): Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga(Spector 46min), Behrami, Kovac, Parker (Noble 86), Diamanti, Mido (Ilan 66), Cole.
Birmingham (4-4-2): Hart, Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Gardner, Ferguson, Bowyer (Madera 77), Fahey (McFadden 66); Phillips, Jerome.
Source : http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk