Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bilic's Fighting Spirit Gives the Hammers an Upton Spark

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bilic's Fighting Spirit Gives the Hammers an Upton Spark

Article excerpt

Byline: JamesOlley Chief Football Correspondent

WEST HAM 2 LIVERPOOL 1 after extra-time THERE won't be many more nights like this. Try telling those packed inside this famous old ground that the FA Cup doesn't matter. Slaven Bilic's team selection once again implied his priorities lay elsewhere but his emotions at the full-time whistle told a different story.

Dimitri Payet began yesterday denying accusations he had made outlandish demands over a new contract and was considering his future but he ended it on his knees through a combination of exhaustion and elation.

He had just delivered a free-kick at the end of extra-time that Angelo Ogbonna met with a towering header to finally see off a Liverpool side left to rue a catalogue of missed chances in each additional period. Liverpool fielded a young side, too, and this is a result that merely secures a fifth-round trip to Blackburn but it felt like so much more.

West Ham are working hard to make the Olympic Stadium feel like home from the summer but they will have to go some to match these games under the lights at Upton Park. It appeared as though they would bid a final farewell to the competition prematurely.

Michail Antonio had given the Hammers a first-half lead before Philippe Coutinho equalised shortly after the restart and although both sides created chances, it was the visitors who had the better opportunities. West Ham should have had a penalty when Tiago Ilori pulled back Enner Valencia as he tried to reach Antonio's cross midway through the second half but referee Roger East remained unmoved.

The Hammers found a way through despite losing Winston Reid, Cheikhou Kouyate and Joey O'Brien to injury while Valencia played through the pain of an ankle injury with no more reinforcements to call on.

It typified a fighting spirit Bilic has created and a desire to leave their home of 112 years on good terms. …

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