Hammers gift points as Spurs hit top spot
West Ham Utd 1 Tottenham 2 OPINION was almost unanimous on the result of this match. Tottenham would have too much strike power for West Ham and would take the points, writes DAVE EVANS. In the end that prediction came true, but that by no means told the
West Ham Utd 1 Tottenham 2
OPINION was almost unanimous on the result of this match. Tottenham would have too much strike power for West Ham and would take the points, writes DAVE EVANS.
In the end that prediction came true, but that by no means told the story in a thrilling London derby where West Ham grabbed the lead, gave it away again and then ran out of steam.
"I think maybe a draw would have been the correct result," said Hammers manager Gianfranco Zola after the match. "There was a moment after we scored when we looked in control and I thought that we were going to win the game. But that is football, especially when you play at high levels, one mistake can be very costly."
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Harry Redknapp's team, bursting with confidence, started this contest like an express train and West Ham could hardly get near the ball in the opening 10 minutes. But they failed to create any clear-cut chances and slowly but surely the Hammers worked their way back into the game.
Carlton Cole bundled Carlo Cudicini into his own net on 16 minutes only to be rightly penalised, but two minutes later Scott Parker tested the keeper even more with a 30-yarder that caught him by surprise before he dived to save by his left-hand post.
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Jonathan Spector set off on a superb run forward to put in Cole, who should have done better than dink his shot well wide, but that was the signal for Tottenham to hit back.
Tom Huddlestone forced a good save from Rob Green, before Benoit Assou-Ekotto found Sebastien Basssong in the box for a shot that drifted inches wide.
Still Spurs came forward. A Luca Modric free kick was headed against the bar by Ledley King, and then Mark Noble was dispossessed by Huddlestone who found Modric for a shot that was well saved by Green.
Back came the Hammers. Green's huge kick allowed Cole to wrestle the ball away from his markers and tee-up Jack Collison whose shot was blocked and the Julien Faubert made a good run down the right and picked out Luis Jimenez with a cross that the skilful Chilean headed wide.
West Ham's best chance of the opening 45 minutes came right on the stroke of half time. James Collins found Junior Stanislas with a raking 40-yard pass and the little winger ghosted past Vedran Corluka to get to the by-line only for his low cross to be inches away from a decisive Cole touch.
"We matched them in everything they did," insisted Zola. "That was the most encouraging thing, which I told the players.
"The first half they started very well, they caused us difficulties because in the first 10 minutes they were in control of the game.
"But we stood our ground and kept our composure and then every time they had a chance we had a chance also, and by the end we had more than them."
With Scott Parker superb in the middle of the park, Jimenez showing the deft of touch that Zola brought him to Upton Park for and Cole giving all sorts of problems to King and Bassong, West Ham deserved something for their efforts and four minutes into the second half it arrived in spectacular fashion.
It should have been the other way round, but a long ball forward was nodded down by Jimenez to Cole who was still some 30 yards out. The England striker controlled it superbly, nipped inside and with a swing of his left foot sent a 25-yard rocket arrowing into the top corner with Cudicini flapping at thin air.
Cole scored West Ham's goal of the season last term, and this one will certainly be up there come May, but the joy of the centre forward soon turned to agony with an inexplicable mistake to gift Tottenham an equaliser.
There was no pressure on Cole when he received the ball just inside his own half, but for some reason he decided to pass it back towards his own box.
It couldn't have been more perfectly put into the path of Jermain Defoe if it had been from one of his own team-mates, and the former Hammer accepted the present with glee and dispatched it with aplomb.
Cole was devastated, West Ham were shellshocked and from that point on Tottenham had a foothold in the game they scarcely deserved.
Aaron Lennon began to get the better of the tiring Spector, which was to prove pivotal, but West Ham still had a few moments at the other end.
Jimenez beat Assou-Ekotto on the right touchline and stormed into the box only to go tumbling, but though it looked a cast-iron penalty, television replays showed that Mark Clattenburg had made the right decision.
Noble's corner found the head of Jimenez whose effort was palmed wide by Cudicini, but when the Chilean was forced off with a thigh strain, West Ham's luck was running out at the other end.
Lennon took on Spector again and though the American seemed to have won the ball, he stumbled, Lennon pounced and with a sweetly-struck left-foot shot the ball flew into the corner and the game was all over.
"What is important is that we can face anybody and we can play at the same level as teams like Tottenham," said Zola. "We just need to mature, because the Premier League is so good that if you make a mistake you are punished, but we will learn from this - trust me."
Despite his words, hopefully Zola has learned that his squad is not strong enough to match a side like Tottenham. Without the injured Herita Ilunga, the team were hopelessly exposed down the left.
While most importantly, Cole cannot take on a Premier League defence single-handed, he must have support and quickly. There was one moment in the second half when the striker darted past his marker on the right touchline only to look up and see not a single Hammers shirt in the opposition box and that is simply not good enough.
West Ham played well, and probably deserved a point from this match, but when Spurs have the strength in depth that has two international strikers on their bench, while the Hammers have two teenagers, then you can see the gulf that exists between the two.
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Spector, Collins, Upson, Noble, Parker (Hines 84), Collison (Nouble 90), Stanislas, Jimenez (Kovac 78), Cole. Unused subs: Kurucz, Gabbidon, Tomkins, Payne.
Att: 33,095. Referee: Mark Clatteburg (7).