Substitute Cole hands West Ham advantage

Substitute Cole hands West Ham advantage

The striker came off the bench to turn the match back in West Ham's favour at Upton Park with a simple side-foot finish that embarrassed fellow England international Foster after Liam Ridgewell had cancelled out Mark Noble's early opener.  The home side had Nigerian striker Victor Obinna sent off for a petulant kick between Sebastian Larsson's legs.
Victory was a boost for West Ham manager Avram Grant whose job has been the subject of intense media speculation since a 5-0 thrashing at Newcastle United last week that sent the east London club back to the bottom of the Premier League.

West Ham, who have never won the League Cup, dominated the first period after Noble's far post blast in the 13th minute squeezed past an unsighted Foster, whose penalty shootout save won the competition for Manchester United two years ago.

The keeper had kept Birmingham in the tie before halftime with several fine saves to stop the home side adding to their lead but the second half was a complete contrast.

The visitors, fired up by a halftime pep talk from manager Alex McLeish, pinned West Ham back and it was no surprise when Ridgewell equalised with a stooping header from a corner. Three minutes later Obinna, on loan from Inter Milan, lost his head and was rightly sent off for catching Swedish midfielder Larsson with a painful kick at a throw-in.

Birmingham appeared to be in the driving seat but the introduction of Cole proved decisive when his scuffed winner from Jonathan Spector's low cross with 12 minutes left somehow evaded a distraught Foster.

The first leg of the other semifinal is on Wednesday.