Belfast Telegraph

West Ham new star Payet can take hero crown from Brooking

Blackburn Rovers 1-5 West Ham

By Ian Whittell

Thirty-six years after last winning the FA Cup in the "Trevor Brooking final", the smart money predicts that if West Ham are to claim the trophy for a fourth time, it will be Brooking's heir apparent, Dimitri Payet, who has a large say in the matter.

Armed with a new five-and-a-half year contract, Payet was the inspiration behind this fifth-round success, scoring with a first-half free-kick and adding the Hammers' fifth - all of which looked well worth the £125,000 a week his new deal pays.

Fouled by Chris Taylor, Payet dusted himself down before sending a 20-yard shot over the wall and with just enough weight and dip to beat the dive of Jason Steele.

To compound Blackburn Rovers' problems, the yellow card Taylor collected came back to haunt the hosts after the interval, when a trip on Victor Moses saw the midfielder collect a second caution and reduced the tie to a West Ham stroll.

Payet's set-piece goal was an exquisite piece of technical skill and one which was fully merited, given the way that the France international had hauled his team back into the tie following Ben Marshall's opening goal for the Championship side.

The comparison may not work on every level, but for those among the 7,200 travelling fans old enough to remember Brooking's playing days, Payet's elegance in spraying the ball around and running home defenders ragged must have brought back fond memories of the Hammers legend.

"Every week, I want those questions to continue, but it is hard to be surprised," said West Ham manager Slaven Bilic of his dazzling midfielder.

"I have to get some poet lessons to describe his importance to us.

"It is not only what he is doing with the ball. It is not me who says to the players, 'this is Payet and give him the ball'. The team recognise it and he is doing the dirty work as well."

The tie had opened promisingly for Rovers when Elliott Bennett's corner was headed out by Michail Antonio to Marshall, who took Payet out of the game with a neat touch before delivering a strike from nearly 25 yards into the bottom corner.

The lead lasted just six minutes before Moses was allowed to advance to the edge of the Blackburn area, the defence parting as he approached, before he unleashed a shot which flew under Steele's dive.

Once in front, it was hard to see West Ham failing to book a place in the last eight and Angelo Ogbonna helped ensure that with a block that kept out a decent Craig Conway shot, just before Taylor collected the red card that killed off the contest in the 55th minute.

Indeed, with Antonio enjoying more of the ball and finding space against the 10 men, there followed a series of attacks that culminated in Emmanuel Emenike, on loan from Fenerbahce and starting his first game for Bilic, made it 3-1.

Cheikhou Kouyate then had the ball in the net, following yet another Antonio shot, only for his effort to be ruled out for offside. Antonio threatened again, and again saw his shot blocked, but Kouyate steered the loose ball to the far post where Emenike was on hand to convert an easy goal.

"We knew when we tried to get him who we are getting," said Bilic of his new forward.

"We know him well from Russia and Turkey. He is a centre-forward who is very strong, very pacy, he loves to go behind which is very important for us.

"He is the reason we created so many times to get between their midfield and back four. Then, when you have players like Payet, Moses, Kouyate, they can create mayhem."

Kouyate marred a near-perfect afternoon when his clumsy trip on Adam Henley resulted in a red card after 75 minutes, but even when level on manpower the Premier League club looked the only likely scorers.

Five minutes from time, Payet's superb pass sent Emenike racing clear and he rounded Steele before rolling the ball into an open net. Only the outside of the Rovers post denied the Nigerian a hat-trick two minutes later and in injury time he had the ball in the goal again only to be ruled offside.

Fittingly, however, the final word belonged to Payet. He collected the ball in his own half and advanced before cutting inside and beating Steele.

"I think they can do it. Absolutely," said Rovers boss Paul Lambert when asked of West Ham's chances of winning the Cup. "They've got momentum."

Belfast Telegraph


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