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Saturday, 19th August 2000

Chelsea 4
West Ham United 2

by Graeme Howlett

The Hammers showed a touch of the first day nerves at Stamford Bridge this afternoon with a comprehensive defeat at the hands of London neighbours Chelsea.

Goals from Paolo Di Canio and Frederic Kanoute weren't enough to earn the Hammers anything from the game.

In the brilliant London sunshine it was the Hammers who took the game by the scruff of the neck, and had Davor Suker beaten Ed De Goey after four minutes when presented with the ball following a horrendous error from Desailly it could have been a completely different story.

But it was the home side who took the lead following a extremely dubious penalty decision on the half hour. Hasselbaink was played through, and Hislop rushed out of his goal to avert the danger. The Dutchman steered the ball round the keeper, but the two players collided. Despite the challenge being clearly outside the area the referee pointed to the spot. Hasselbaink duly converted the penalty to give Chelsea the lead.

Half time 1-0 then, and Harry pep talk must have inspired the visitors as within three minutes of the restart the Hammers were level. A wonderful chipped pass across the box from Kanoute set up Di Canio, who steered the equaliser beyond De Goey.

Chelsea regained the lead from a free kick by Italian maestro Zola. Stimac's clumsy challenge on the edge of the box gave the home side the perfect opportunity to set up the shot for the little Italian, who left Shaka Hislop grounded with a curler around the wall.

With 12 minutes left on the clock CHelsea made it 3-1 - and you'll be hard pressed to see a better individual goal all season. New signing Mario Stanic let fly from 30 yards after a spot of juggling and left Hislop with no chance.

However, the Hammers refused to lay down and die, and were back in the game five minutes later. A Di Canio corner finally paid off as Kanoute took advantage of De Goey's uncertainty to nod home from five yards. 3-2.

Harry Redknapp finally introduced Joe Cole to the fray, but it was too little too late. And to add insult to injury Chelsea added an undeserved fourth with two minutes left on the clock; the Hammers defence were left flat footed as Stanic rose to head home his second of the day.

The last time I remember the Hammers conceding four on the opening day of the season was way back in 1988 at Southampton. We had a torrid time that season, let's just hope this one was a blip against one of the stronger sides we'll face this year.

Unfortunately our worst fears were confirmed; yes, we looked excellent going forward but our defensive frailties proved to be our undoing. The sooner Rio and Ian Pearce return the better.

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