Saturday, 20th September 2008
The afternoon started off well, with the Hammers taking the lead after just eight minutes through Di Michele. The thrice-capped Italian cut in from the right wing, taking out several defenders on the way, lined up his shot, which deflected up and over Shay Given over Toon defender Steven Taylor. No sound from 'the famous' Toon Army, as the Centenary Lower naturally pointed out, but most of Upton Park erupted as the fans heralded a new age.
''G-ian-franco's Claret and Blue Army'' seemed to be the chant of the day, and it continued as West Ham piled on the pressure. Herito Ilunga, another loan signing, was giving Matthew Etherington the support he so often received from George McCartney down the left flank, while Etherington himself was causing problems for the Geordie defence, taunted by the mighty Marlon King of Hull City last weekend. Di Michele looked occasionally clumsy but largely effective, and Carlton Cole seemed to be of good use.
Noble went close with one free kick, sent another into the crowd when it would have been better to stand back and let Etherington try his luck, and on 37 minutes, that man Di Michele fashioned a chance for himself after good work by Julien Faubert down the right side, appeared to dither yet again, finally got his shot away, had it blocked by Given, and curled a second attempt into the bottom corner. ''He needs to focus on the finishing but he can do incredible things.'' Too right, Franco. Di Michele had looked slightly dodgy at West Brom the week before and had infuriated the fans with a couple of speculative bicycle kicks when controlling the ball would have been more prudent, but looked excellent today.
Carlton Cole was also having a good game, winning free kicks aplenty, distributing well and linking up to great effect with the equally impressive Di Michele. No chorus of that 'Indestructible' song that the fans used to sing for Joe Cole, but everyone clearly appreciates his effort, none least the boss: ''Carlton is unbelievable. He has all the qualities to play for England.''
At half time, with the score at 2-0, the nine-game wait for a win against Newcastle United looked to be over. A hideously over-priced bottle of Lucozade Sport was not so much to calm the nerves as to enhance the increasingly-sweet taste of forthcoming victory. Within minutes of the restart, that Lucozade Sport was to prove unnecessary, as Di Michele, on a hat trick, rampaged down the right side once more and unselfishly squared for Matthew Etherington to knock into the back of the net for his first goal since November 10 2007. ''We want four'' was the chant from the auditorily ubiquitous Centenary Lower. They should have got it as well.
After a 63rd minute goal which proved to ultimately be little more than a consolation from England forward Michael Owen, clipped into the bottom corner after a rare (in this particular game) lapse in concentration from United skipper Lucas Neill, Luis Boa Morte, subbed on in a straight swap for the impressive Etherington, missed not one but two good chances, but the only difficulty his efforts posed to the Newcastle defence was deciding which won the Miss Of The Month competition. The first almost reached the corner flag and was still rising as it flew into the Bobby Moore Lower, the second was a woeful attempt with only Given to beat.
Sandwiched in between Owen's goal and both of Boa Morte's misses, were decent saves from Green, firstly from an Owen header, and then from a Geremi free kick, the latter of which provoked ''50p head, woah, woah'' chants from the claret and blue faithful.
And so it ended. 3-1 to the mighty Irons, A very good result which finally ended the hoodoo against the Geordies and set the Gianfranco Zola reign off to the best possible start. ''I am very happy with the result and performance'' said the new boss. Long may that continue.
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Didn't really have much to do, produced good saves from N'Zogbia and Geremi.
Played at right back, has he finally found his best position for us? Did well down the flank.
Looked good on his home debut and linked up well with Etherington.
On the whole played well. One slip let Owen in for a goal.
Solid would probably be the best word to describe his performance.
Better performance than we've seen from him in recent games, controlled central midfield.
Excellent performance at Albion last week, another great one today. Back to his best?
Put some decent crosses in, but didn't really seem involved.
Marked a very good performance greatly improved on last season with a goal.
David Di Michele
A virtuoso performance on his debut from the Italian. New Kepa Blanco? New Paolo more like.
The team revolved around him today, he was at the centre of every good chance we had,
(replaced Parker, 72) Performed the same role as Parker to equal effect.
Luis Boa Morte
(replaced Etherington, 73) Poor cameo appearance. Missed two excellent chances.
(replaced Cole, 87) Didn't have time to do much, created a chance for Boa Morte however.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
Man of the Match: David Di Michele.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Valon Behrami, Matthew Etherington, David Di Michele, Carlton Cole.
Goals: David Di Michele 9 David Di Michele 37 Matthew Etherington 53 .
Booked: Lucas Neill 51 .
Sent off: None.
Given, Edgar, Taylor, N'Zogbia, Coloccini, Geremi, Cacapa, Butt, Duff, Owen, Xisco.
Substitutes: Bassong (Edgar 59), Gonzalez (Cacapa 81).
Subs not used: Harper, Tozer, Doninger, Donaldson, Ameobi.
Goals: Owen (67).
Booked: Kim (71).
Sent Off: None.