West Ham United FC beat Birmingham City FC 2-1 in the first leg of their English League Cup semi-final.
Goals from Mark Noble and Carlton Cole – either side of Liam Ridgewell's equaliser and Victor Obinna's dismissal – proved sufficient to give West Ham the edge ahead of the second leg at St Andrew's on 26 January. The victors will face either Arsenal FC or Ipswich Town FC, who begin their tie on Wednesday night, in next month's Wembley final, which carries a UEFA Europa League berth.
Avram Grant's side, bottom of the Premier League, took a deserved lead on 13 minutes. Noble's enterprising run and cross from the right found its way back to him via Jonathan Spector and his fierce shot flew inside Ben Foster's near post. Foster kept his side in the game, however, denying Spector, James Tomkins and, most impressively, Obinna.
Birmingham capitalised on their goalkeeper's fine work on 56 minutes, Ridgewell swooping to head in Sebastian Larsson's corner. Obinna was dismissed three minutes later but Birmingham failed to add a second and were punished 13 minutes from time when substitute Cole squeezed a shot past Foster.
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