Hammers on course for Europe

2009-05-02 18:24

Stoke - West Ham remain on course for a European place next season after Diego Tristan's stunning strike clinched a 1-0 win at Stoke on Saturday.

Gianfranco Zola's side currently fill seventh position in the Premiership - one point ahead of Manchester City, Fulham and Tottenham - and will book their spot in the Europe by winning their last three matches.

After Zola signed a new four-year contract last weekend, the future looks bright for West Ham, who ended Stoke's eight-game unbeaten run at the Britannia Stadium and left Tony Pulis's team still not quite safe from relegation.

As ever, Stoke were a threat from Rory Delap's long throws and he picked out Ryan Shawcross with a long throw in the opening minutes, only for the defender to head straight at Robert Green.

Ricardo Fuller then found the net for Stoke two minutes later after beating Robert Green to the ball but his effort was disallowed for an infringement.

Tristan served notice of his ability to pounce on a half-chance in the 14th minute when he prodded home, but the goal was ruled out for a handball by the Spaniard.

Stoke have been tough to breakdown on home turf this season but Tristan gave West Ham the lead in the 33rd minute with a superb shot.

Abdoulaye Faye brought down David Di Michele and Tristan stepped up to lash the free-kick past Thomas Sorensen for his third goal of the season.

Stoke almost equalised in the 40th minute when former Hammers midfielder Matthew Etherington found Fuller, but Green reacted well to take the ball off his toes as he prepared to shoot.

Delap and West Ham's Luis Boa Morte were booked after a tussle a minute before half-time.

Fuller clipped a shot wide of the post in the 59th minute as Stoke, urged on by their vociferous home support, pressed for an equaliser.

Stoke came close to equalising again in the 74th minute when Liam Lawrence delivered a corner from the left. Faye powered in a header at the back post but Mark Noble cleared off the line.

They kept pushing forward but West Ham nearly added a second in stoppage time only for Tristan to send his effort wide from a good position.