Manchester City 1 West Ham United 1
8:42pm Sunday 20th January 2008 in Sport
Sven-Goran Eriksson was left frustrated as Manchester City surrendered further ground in the race for a coveted European berth after being held at home 1-1 by a severely-depleted West Ham side.
Carlton Cole produced a delightful overhead kick to put the Hammers ahead after eight minutes before Darius Vassell stabbed in a controversial equaliser eight minutes later.
But West Ham always looked more likely to pilfer the points and promising young goalkeeper Joe Hart was forced to make smart saves to deny Mark Noble and then Cole in the closing stages.
A chronic lack of firepower seriously undermined City's efforts and although a UEFA Cup spot remains a distinct possibility - this point lifted them to fifth in the Barclays Premier League - dreams of the Champions League are fading fast.
West Ham deserve credit for producing a spirited response after limping out of the FA Cup at Eastlands four days earlier.
That they did so without Dean Ashton and Matthew Etherington - ruled out due to back and knee injuries respectively - hinted at the depth and quality of their squad as the Londoners continue their own assault on Europe.
They were threatening throughout and Cole's eighth-minute strike was just reward for their early enterprise.
That it came from a defensive error from City skipper Richard Dunne - whose standards have rarely dipped below exemplary this season - raised eyebrows.
The Irishman surrendered possession from inside his own 18-yard box with a dreadful pass straight to Noble and he swiftly fed Freddie Ljungberg on the right flank.
The Swede whipped in a dangerous cross into the six-yard box where Cole lurked menacingly.
City drew level in the 16th minute when West Ham failed to deal with a Martin Petrov corner and the ball was recycled back to the Bulgarian out wide on the right flank.
Petrov's vicious cross flashed through a thicket of defenders and found its way to Vassell who stabbed home his third goal of the season from three yards out.
Vassell looked suspiciously offside when Petrov delivered the cross but the goal stood and City were level.
West Ham should have claimed a winner with 13 minutes remaining, however, when Julien Faubert and Cole combined to give Mark Noble a shooting chance from 12 yards which drew a fine save from Hart, who then tipped over a header from Cole with just seconds remaining.