West Ham United versus West Bromwich did not have 'thrilling match' written all over it. It didn't have 'thrilling match' written anywhere near it. But that's what we got -- the hosts opened the scoring in the fourth minute and started a see-sawing match in which the Hammers gave away two leads and the Baggies one en route to a 3-3 draw.
It all looked so promising for the Hammers. Although the visitors went on the attack early on with Chris Brunt firing James Morrison's cross into the side netting, it was West Ham who struck first. Mohamed Diame nodded the resulting goal kick towards Joe Cole, who then played a deft one-two with Kevin Nolan before firing beyond Ben Foster and into the far corner.
The Hammers were ahead and looking for another. Matt Jarvis could have doubled their lead after being fed by Carlton Cole, but the former Wolves man failed to hit a shot first time and the chance was gone. Then Guy Demel, on for the injured James Tomkins, smashed a shot into the stanchion at the culmination of a lengthy West Ham attack. It looked as though the Baggies were completely out of the game.
They weren't. Tomkins' injury had badly hurt the hosts' defence, and it was only a matter of time before West Brom took advantage of his absence. Brunt served warning of the danger when he raced clear of the back line only to throw the opportunity away with a blind cutback. Minutes later, he would redeem himself by playing in the most clinical finisher on the pitch.
Nicolas Anelka might not be his old self, but he's still plenty lethal when presented with a chance, and Brunt's poked pass was perfectly weighted for him to breeze past George McCartney and clip the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen. West Ham's hard work and their long spells of superiority had been completely wasted.
West Brom weren't done there either. Just before halftime, Anelka released Morrison with a long pass down the left side, and although Joe Cole produced some top defending to ensure that the midfielder kicked the ball out of play, Mike Dean gave the visitors a corner regardless. Carlton Cole met said corner, but his attempted clearance fell to Anelka, who completed his brace with a simple finish.
Sam Allardyce's response was to haul off Carlton Cole at halftime and replace him with Modibo Maiga. It wasn't an obviously game-saving move, but it worked. In the 62nd minute, the big man forced a stunning save from Foster with a delicious curling effort from the top of the penalty box. Five minutes later the hosts were ahead.
Foster might have done better withe the equalising goal, a low effort from Maiga which he allowed to squirm under him on its way to the far corner, but there was nothing he could do about Nolan's strike a minute later. Mark Noble seized onto a loose ball in the Baggies' box and sent in a looping cross to the far post. Maiga rose above the defence to head it back across goal, and Nolan's acrobatic volley sent the net rippling.
Now it was West Brom's turn to attack, and they produced an immediate reply through Saido Berahino, who coasted past Demel and then, from a difficult angle, sent a left-footed finish across Jaaskelainen. The goalkeeper got a touch on the ball, but he only succeeded in ensuring it went in off the post rather than without interruption. The match was level once more.
Jaaskelainen was forced into a sharp save from Brunt, but the real danger was from Berahino, who nearly made it 4-3 with a vicious, 80th-minute free kick which cannoned back off the post with the Hammers defence helpless.
At the other end, Nolan failed to add to his single goal when presented with a huge opportunity to grab the winner. He somehow contrived to send Demel's delivery high and wide when presented with a straightforward header in the six-yard box.
That miss, as it turns out, would be the last significant chance of the game despite some frenetic play in front of both goals during injury time. Neither team will be entirely happy with the point, but at least they put on a thrilling display at Upton Park.
West Ham United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Jussi Jaaskelainen; Razvan Rat, George McCartney, James Tomkins (Guy Demel 11'), Joey O'Brien; Mohamed Diame, Mark Noble; Matthew Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Joe Cole (Jack Colison 83'); Carlton Cole .
Goals: Joe Cole 4', Maiga 65', Nolan 67'.
West Bromwich Albion starting lineup (3-5-2): Ben Foster; Jonas Olsson, Diego Lugano , Gareth McAuley; Liam Ridgewell, Chris Brunt, Youssuf Mulumbu, James Morrison (Claudio Yacub 78'), Billy Jones; Nicolas Anelka, Saido Berahino (Stephane Sessegnon 85').
Goals: Anelka 40' 45', Berahino 69'.