Dimitri Payet was the star as West Ham recovered from a goal down to beat Blackburn 5-1 in the FA Cup fifth round.
Rovers, who played the last 35 minutes with 10 men after Chris Taylor’s sending-off, had led through free-scoring right-back Ben Marshall but never looked like threatening a shock like the one a year ago when they dumped out Premier League Stoke 4-1.
A lot has changed personnel-wise since then for the Championship side – Rudy Gestede, Jordan Rhodes and Josh King have all moved on – and Victor Moses’ first goal since September 19 was followed by an exquisite Payet free-kick and two second-half goals for Emmanuel Emenike before Payet fittingly finished things off with a brilliant individual effort.
Taylor’s dismissal for a second yellow card was balanced out by a straight red shown to Cheikhou Kouyate 15 minutes from time for denying Blackburn left-back Adam Henley a goalscoring opportunity but it had no impact in altering the momentum.
Hammers manager Slaven Bilic was fully rewarded for naming a strong side, making just four changes from the team which drew with Norwich a week ago, with Payet’s retention key to the victory.
The Frenchman is West Ham’s go-to man and has now had a hand in 16 goals (nine goals, eight assists) in all competitions this season – 10 more than any other player.
He provided a real element of quality on the ball and it was his sublime 25-yard free-kick in the 36th minute after Taylor’s foul which put the Hammers 2-1 up.
Prior to that Marshall had put an end to 20 minutes of mediocrity with his own piece of excellence as he brought down Michail Antonio’s weak headed clearance from Elliott Bennett’s corner, side-stepped Payet – about the only thing he did wrong all afternoon – and tucked a left-footed shot just inside the post.
It was Marshall’s fourth FA Cup goal this season, having scored in every round, and his fifth in the last six matches in all competitions on his 100th appearance for the club.
The less said about Blackburn’s defending for the equaliser the better, however, as Moses was allowed to run unchallenged from halfway before goalkeeper Jason Steele somehow dived over the winger’s shot.
Taylor’s afternoon got worse 10 minutes into the second half as, having been booked for the foul which led to Payet’s goal, he received a second caution for tripping Moses.
Kouyate had a goal ruled out for offside but Emenike, from an identical position, made the game safe in the 64th minute with a far-post tap-in.
A straight red card for Kouyate, who sent Henley flying just as he was about to break clear into the box, failed to change the dynamic as Emenike beat the offside trap five minutes from time to fire home Payet’s pass and was then denied a hat-trick by the post.
Payet took matters into his own hands in added time, running from halfway to fire home a brilliant fifth.