x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Zola cheered by a 'massive result'

The West Ham manager, celebrated the biggest victory of his career, a win he said that could prove crucial in his team retaining their top-flight status.

Gianfranco Zola, the West Ham manager, celebrated the biggest managerial victory of his career, a win, he said that could prove crucial in his team retaining their top-flight status. There is something about facing Portsmouth on Boxing Day which brings out the best in West Ham and you could sense from Zola's celebrations at the final whistle the importance of this victory as they managed to claw their way out of the bottom three.

West Ham recorded one of their best performances of the season 12 months ago when they came away with a 4-1 victory at Fratton Park which helped turn their campaign around. It may not have been the same emphatic scoreline, but the importance of yesterday's result cannot be underestimated as Zola came away with yet another victory over Portsmouth on a Boxing Day which saw his side move out of the relegation zone and leave Portsmouth rooted to the foot of the table.

A first-half penalty from Alessandro Diamanti and a late header from Radoslav Kovac handed West Ham only their fourth victory of the season - but it could prove to be one of their most important. After getting their season back on track with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea last weekend, West Ham players - and the industrious Scott Parker in particular - showed they are fully behind Zola and are desperate to keep the club in the Premier League, despite the financial problems affecting the East London club.

Zola said: "This was a fantastic win. It was a massive result and this was one of my biggest wins as a manager. I rated this game as a six-pointer and it was so important for the table. "The boys showed a lot of character and this is a big boost for everyone. It is a sign that they believe we want to do good things and they are playing for everyone. We are building something here." In stark contrast, Avram Grant must have strong concerns over Portsmouth's ability to move out of the bottom three following this latest setback.

Portsmouth looked to have got their season back on track with a 2-0 win over Liverpool last week, but they failed to produce the same form and will now lose four key players to the African Cup of Nations. West Ham opened the scoring on 23 minutes when the ball fell to Luis Jimenez who was brought down inside the box by Michael Brown. Diamanti scored from the penalty spot against Chelsea last weekend and he made no mistake once again firing the ball past Asmir Begovic.

The home side wrapped up a crucial victoryafter 89 minutes. Jimenez's free-kick picked out Kovac who powered an unstoppable header past Begovic. Man of the match: Scott Parker (West Ham) @Email:sports@thenational.ae