Championship Play-Off Final
19 May 2012 - 3:00 PM
Blackpool 1 - 2 West Ham United
Ricardo Vaz Te smashed West Ham United back into the Premier League with a lucrative late goal that broke Blackpool hearts in the npower Championship Play-Off Final.
The 25-year-old Portuguese hitman latched onto a loose ball after Carlton Cole was denied by Matthew Gilks and thundered the ball into the roof of the net after 87 minutes.
Cole gave the Hammers the lead, latching onto Matt Taylor's long ball before beating Gilks with a thunderous strike after 35 minutes.
But Blackpool got themselves back into it with an almost identical goal, Matthew Phillips playing the role of Taylor and Thomas Ince dragging the ball low across Robert Green for the equaliser, but it was not their time to return to the top flight.
Despite blowing automatic promotion, West Ham arrived on fine form and as heavy favourites, having convincingly beaten Blackpool twice earlier this season.
Sam Allardyce's side cruised past Cardiff City in their semi-final, winning 5-0 on aggregate, but the travelling Tangerine army was hopeful of an upset after resolute performances against Birmingham to win 3-2.
And it was nearly the Seasiders celebrating first when Stephen Dobbie got sight of goal only for Green to tip the ball onto the post.
West Ham gave their supporters more reasons to be nervous, as Phillips twice wasted golden opportunities.
Phillips, scorer of seven league goals, shot straight at Green when played beautifully through by Dobbie and then sent a curled effort agonisingly wide after a mistake by Guy Demel.
The Hammers were finally able to exert some pressure after 20 minutes, working the ball down the left flank before Gary O'Neil laid the ball off to Vaz Te, but he could only rattle the side-netting.
The pressure told though and West Ham struck first in the most lucrative game in world football with a goal of Premier League quality after 35 minutes.
Taylor stole the ball from Ince in the Hammers half and drove upfield before picking out the striker with a perfectly lofted ball over Ian Evatt.
Cole still had plenty to do, but he calmly pulled the pass out of the sky and smashed it past the helpless Gilks.
Allardyce's men could have been two up minutes later after another sublime ball over the top, this time by Jack Collison, but Vaz Te slid the ball wide.
Blackpool attempted to regain a foothold but could do little to penetrate the opposition defence, leaving West Ham 45 minutes from the Premier League.
However, Ian Holloway's men produced almost a carbon copy of Cole's strike straight after the break, the younger Phillips playing the ball over to Ince, who pulled it across Green to level things up.
West Ham weren't going to be rolled over though, and Cole demonstrated great skill again, collecting substitute Julien Faubert's pass and drawing a brilliant low save from Gilks.
At the other end Dobbie should have buried Neal Eardley's cross, but scuffed his shot wide 67 minutes in.
With both managers prowling the technical area and extra time drawing near, Kevin Nolan was inches from sealing victory for the Irons when he rattled the crossbar with a powerful volley from George McCartney's cross.
And with the seconds counting down, Vaz Te struck to allow Big Sam to deliver on his promise of getting West Ham back in the big time and sending their fans into delirium.
Blackpool (4-2-3-1): Gilks; Eardley, Evatt, Crainey; Martinez (Dicko 90), Ferguson; Ince, Dobbie (Bednar 90), M. Phillips; K. Phillips (Sylvestre 71).
Substitutes not used: Southern, Cathcart.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Green; Demel (Faubert 57); Tomkins, Reid, Taylor; O'Neill (McCartney 53), Noble; Collison, Nolan, Vaz Te; Cole.
Substitutes not used: Maynard, Henderson, Lansbury.