England striker Carlton Cole struck twice as Premier League strugglers West Ham United crushed Burnley 5-1 at Upton Park on Monday to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.
German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, playing his first game since joining from Lazio in June last year, gave the hosts an early lead and two neat finishes by Cole, a header from Winston Reid and a late strike from Freddie Sears, sent the Hammers through to a last-eight clash at Stoke City.
West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green pulled off early saves from Burnley’s Chris Eagles and Jay Rodriguez as the visitors started well, but Hitzlsperger’s fierce long-range strike in the 23rd minute settled the home side down.
Cole beat the offside trap twice in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring first with a left-foot poke after a poor touch and then with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
New Zealand defender Reid headed home Hitzlsperger’s corner in the 59th minute before Rodriguez claimed a consolation for the Championship (second division) side.
“It went so well tonight,” said Hitzlsperger, who is in his second spell in England having earlier in his career played for Aston Villa.
“I didn’t know what to expect after being out for so long. The fans must have forgotten about me,” he said. “It’s been a tough time, so this is a special night for me.”
Striker Sears smashed home a last-minute effort to complete a satisfying evening for the Upton Park faithful.
West Ham manager Avram Grant said that the decision at halftime to expose their opponents’ high defensive line had worked a treat. However, he added he hoped his season ended differently to last year when as manager of Portsmouth they reached the FA Cup final and were relegated.
“Stay up and win the FA Cup final? I’d buy that right now,” said Grant, before adding that the return to fitness of Hitzlsperger had been crucial to confidence off and on the pitch.
West Ham languish 19th in the Premier League standings, but have enjoyed success in cup competitions this season with Grant also leading them to the League Cup semi-finals.