A new season but the same old story
West Ham 0 Napoli 1 Gianfranco Zola was rightly pleased with his team s performance against Napoli for there was much to admire in the final showdown before Saturday s big kick-off at Molineux, writes COLIN BENSON. But the Hammers boss was still left wit
West Ham 0 Napoli 1
Gianfranco Zola was rightly pleased with his team's performance against Napoli for there was much to admire in the final showdown before Saturday's big kick-off at Molineux, writes COLIN BENSON.
But the Hammers boss was still left with the same problem he had hovering over him last season, wondering where the goals are going to come from.
In a highly competitive and entertaining match, the only shot on target was 12 minutes from time when Fabio Quagliarella won the Bobby Moore Cup by getting in front of James Collins to Christian Maggio's deep cross with a looping header that caught Robert Green off his line.
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Zola reflected: "It was a very good performance and I told the players that at times from our box to the edge of their box has been the best I have seen West Ham playing. There have been some quality movements.
"We just need to improve a little bit on taking more chances and shoot a little bit more.
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"I think we should be more clinical, but they sat in there and we will improve."
The back four of Julien Faubert, who showed great tenacity at right-back when dealing with the trickery of Ezequiel Lavezzi; and James Tomkins, Matty Upson and Herita Ilunga all showed up well against a lively Naples attack, that opened in spectacular fashion with Quagliarella firing a lavish bicycle kick just over the Hammer's bar.
It was hard work for the midfield partnership of Mark Noble, Scott Parker and Jack Collison who with Kieron Dyer pushing forward in a loose 4-3-3 formation, were sometimes left outnumbered.
But in the 36th minute, the Hammers carved out a blistering counter-attack. Luis Jime-nez worked the ball with Jack Collison to the feet of Carlton Cole, who laid an exquisite pass into the path of Parker, overlapping on the right.
Parker could see daylight between himself and goal, but last season's player of the year angled his shot from eight yards over the Napoli bar.
Cole, particularly outstanding in the second half, created a moment of magic when he bamboozled Matteo Contini with some sorcery of his own.
"It is no surprise anymore for me," said Zola.
"Some of the things he does on the pitch are unbelievable. Beating Contini by the corner flag was a piece of skill that not many players can do. Carlton Cole is improving day by day. His confidence, his presence, is quite exceptional."
The England international will be a key figure this season, but much of his hold-up play could bring bigger dividends if he had more support from players breaking from deep.
Collison muffed a good chance in the first-half; Parker would have scored in the second half had he not lost his footing after rounding goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis, and there was a big cheer when Danny Gabbidon, celebrating his 30th birthday, made his first home appearance since December 2007, after injury.
Napoli were reduced to 10-men in the 83rd minute when Manuele Blasi, a 58th minute substitute, was shown a second yellow card.
A well-travelled Italian international, he had charged around like a mad bull from the moment he took the stage.
West Ham: Green, Faubert (Spector 63), Ilunga, Tomkins (Collins h/t), Upson (Gabbidon 74), Noble, Parker, Dyer (Savio 63), Collison (Hines 88), Cole, Jimenez (Stanislas 77).
Referee: Keith Stroud.