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West Ham United will begin 2014 in the relegation zone after drawing 3-3 with West Bromwich Albion.
West Ham’s attackers have been struggling for goals, and it was a couple of midfielders who combined to fire them ahead inside five minutes. A deft flick from Kevin Nolan freed Joe Cole, and he fired a precise, low finish into the corner.
The Hammers had an excellent chance to double their advantage on the half-hour mark, but Carlton Cole’s shot from a tight angle struck a post.
West Ham were made to pay for not cashing in on their chances, as Nicolas Anelka levelled five minutes before the break.
The former Arsenal man has had a tough few months, as he took time out from the game following the death of his friend and agent, Eric Manasse. He was also struck down by injury in October, with his return to action coming against the Hammers in the final game of 2013.
The Hammers would have preferred his return had been delayed until 2014, as he levelled the scores with a deft finish on 40 minutes, having proved too slick for Joey O’Brien in a foot race. And minutes later, he turned the match on its head when he reacted quickest at a corner to bundle the ball home.
West Ham hit the Baggies with a two-goal blast shortly after half-time to edge themselves in front for the second time in the match.
Modibo Maiga was thrown on by Hammers boss Sam Allardyce at the interval, and he slotted home with his left foot on 65 minutes to level the scores.
And two minutes later, Kevin Nolan was on hand to volley home a loose ball to put West Ham ahead.
But the lead lasted a mere couple of minutes, as Saido Berahino netted the Baggies’ third.
Berahino came close to grabbing a winner, but his sublime free-kick crashed against the corner of the post and crossbar.
Keith Downing is leading the Baggies while the club search for a new manager, and he was happy with the display—although he admitted the defending left a bit to be desired (quotes via WBAFCofficial on Twitter):
"I'm very proud of the players," Downing said. "They've responded very well to goals conceded in the past few games."
"I've got mixed feelings," he continued. "It was a hell of a game but a bit too open for my liking. It certainly wasn't one for defensive purists."
West Ham will open up 2014 with a trip across London to Fulham, while West Brom will entertain Newcastle.