Saturday, 19th August 2000
The team was as predicted with Shaka in goal (welcome back) and a back three of Stimac, Pearcey (another welcome return) and Margas, Lomas and Winterburn played wing backs, Lampard, Carrick and Dicky Boy were in midfield with Kanoute and Suker up front. Notable absences were Tricky who was suspended and Rio who was injured (or was holding the camera for Lamps, ha ha).
After Chelsea patted themselves on the back with winning the Hub-Cap also known as the Charity Shield and signing some expensive players, we got down to the serious business of winning our first game of the season. The game started brightly enough with both sides having some good chances. For once this fixture was a game of flowing football rather than the midfield battle which normally happens. However mistakes were bound to happen and on this occasion it was Hislop who made the first. He made a challenge on Chelsea's new signing Hasselbaink over a 50/50 ball and sent him flying into the air. The ref had no choice but to book Hislop and award Hasselbaink a penalty. Hasselbaink did the honours and opened his account with his new club.
You would have thought that Chelsea would have started an onslaught of attacking football after that, but they didn't. They made sloppy passes and we started to get our game together. At half time I thought we were the better side even though we were a goal down.
Harry must have shoved Apollo 13 up their backsides during the break. Suker who did not have the best of play in the first half came out and tore through Chelsea's defence. Dicky Boy and Kanoute were linking up with Suker quite nicely and it wasn't long before we scored - Dicky Boy getting our first goal of the season. After that we could have scored a few more, however due to a mistake by Carrick heading the ball back into our penalty area (Taxi for Carrick), a free kick was awarded to Chelsea. Zola as always lashed the ball past Hislop - score 2-1.
Even at 2-1 we were not defeated. The score should have been that in our favour. De Goey was forced into repeated saving mode with shots and crosses flying in from all angles.
Stanic scored his wonder goal making the score 3-1 against the flow of play and the game was lost. However to our credit we did not give up and Kanoute scored from a corner. We nearly and should have scored again a few minutes later with chances missed by
Cole was brought on five minutes before the end in exchange for Carrick. It was too much to ask of him to work wonders as this late stage. With heads hanging low, sloppy defending let us down again and Stanic scored his second. The game ended 4-2.
Chelsea were lucky to win. We were constantly on the attack in the second half and looked like we should have been the winning team; a draw at worst. We played some very attractive football and once Suker is on form I'm sure he will be scoring a lot of goals for us. My man of the match (for West Ham) though was Pearcey. Every ball that bobbled in our defence he booted it out. He linked up with Winterburn extremely well, it looks like Minto may have a task on his hands to get back in the squad. Pearcey made some excellent challenges and even shouted at us to keep singing. Let's hope he'll be around for the whole season.
Lampard was a disappointment and did not really contribute much at all. This was probably due to being subdued after a very harsh yellow card early on in the first half.
We really missed an attacking midfield (and sometimes a midfield altogether). Why Cole wasn't on from the start? I really don't know. Lomas I don't think coped too well with holding the ball up on the right hand side. He didn't run at any players and just kept lobbing the ball into the middle where there were too many bodies or losing it to Melchiot. Carrick did a have a few shots on goal and certainly made up from his earlier error. Dicky Boy ran his socks off as normal.
I overheard a conversation with a Chelsea fan and someone asking how they got on. He said that they had won but it was not easy. His quote was "Well, to be honest it wasn't a very convincing win and I was really worried". Leicester on Wednesday are in for a shock.
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