Ricardo Vaz Te’s late winner sealed a 2-1 victory for West Ham over Blackpool in the Championship playoff final and return the Hammers to the Premier League.
Carlton Cole finished coolly from a delightful Matthew Taylor pass after Stephen Dobbie had earlier hit the post for Ian Holloway’s side, then Thomas Ince equalized immediately after the break with a composed finish.
But Vaz Te blasted home late on to give West Ham the win, and the Hammers return to the top flight after only one year away.
West Ham almost worked an early opening after Kevin Nolan looked to feed a pass through to Cole within the first thirty seconds, but it was slightly strong and Matt Gilks collected the ball comfortably.
But it was Blackpool which had the first real opening. Taylor failed to deal with a long ball, and Stephen Dobbie was able to gather the loose ball, firing from a tight angle, forcing Robert Green to parry his effort on to the post.
Phillips had a glorious chance moments later after a poor mistake by Guy Demel. The 21-year-old collected the ball, worked it on to his right foot and bent a curling effort which looked destined for the far corner until it flashed inches wide of the post.
Just as it looked like Blackpool had weathered a Hammers storm, West Ham took the lead 10 minutes before the break. The Hammers broke quickly and Taylor played a superbly chipped ball over to Cole, who brought the ball down confidently, shrugged off Ian Evatt’s challenge and steered the ball past Gilks.
The second half started explosively for the Tangerines. Matty Phillips played a long angled ball over the West Ham defence, and Ince stroked the ball across goal with an excellent first-time finish to level the scores only two minutes after the break.
Holloway’s side then should have taken the lead almost immediately. Kevin Phillips lofted a delicate pass to find Alex Baptiste in unfamiliar territory, but the center back was unable to guide the ball past the onrushing Green.
George McCartney replaced Gary O’Neil early in on in the half, with Allardyce shuffling Taylor forward into midfield, while Julien Faubert came on for the injured Demel.
Cole then forced a fine save from Gilks just past the hour, bringing the ball down on the edge of the area from a Faubert pass, and firing a low strike across goal which the Blackpool shot-stopper did well to parry away.
Neal Eardley then burst down the right flank, pulling back across the box to set up a gilt-edged chance for Dobbie, but the on-loan midfielder scuffed the chance wide.
Ludovic Sylvestre came on for the hard-grafting Kevin Phillips with 20 minutes to go, before the lively Dobbie then struck another effort from distance which needed a fine save from Green to turn it around the near post and keep the Hammers level.
As the match entered the last 10 minutes, Allardyce’s side almost went back ahead in spectacular fashion. Collison’s ball from the left was met by Nolan, who showed magnificent technique to unleash a rasping volley towards goal and Gilks produced a stunning acrobatic save to tip the ball on to the crossbar.
James Tomkins had an effort late on with a header which looped over the bar, before the telling moment of the match. Cole was almost through on goal when he was challenged by Gilks, but the ball cannoned off the keeper and fell into the path of Vaz Te, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net and send the West Ham fans into ecstasy.
Holloway threw on Bednar and Nouha Dicko as Blackpool looked to push for an equalizer in injury time, but the Hammers kept the ball well and saw out the win to return to the Premier League and pocket the 90 million pound bonus that goes with promotion.
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- West Ham
- Stephen Dobbie
- Carlton Cole