Saturday, 11th November 2000
A game of two halves it certainly was. That's not to say that we were poor in the first; in fact quite the opposite was true, we played well enough without ever adding the clinical finish, which has been our problem since the beginning of this particular campaign.
But the second half was vintage West Ham. Everyone had a blinder; Trevor Sinclair and Freddy Kanoute, both heavily criticised of late were especially superb. As far as Sinclair goes, it was like watching him at his best once again. He literally terrorised City (the team he supported as a boy) down the right flank, and scored an excellent second which allowed the Hammers to play with style once they had taken the lead.
Kanoute had a stormer too. You could argue that he should have had a hat-trick himself; three times after the break he found himself with only Nicky Weaver to beat but poor finishing was to blame for him not adding himself to the other four names on the scoresheet. But he played a major part in three of the goals, and showed enough to partly justify the £4m Harry Redknapp spent on him in the summer.
You have to go back a long way to find the last match in which West Ham scored four times in one half. It was nearly three years ago when we buried Barnsley 6-0, with a certain Samassi Abou grabbing a brace as part of that particular trouncing.
But the difference between this game and that was the quality of the opposition. City will find it hard going this season, but they are a much better side than the Barnsley team which capitulated at the Boleyn on that January day in 1998.
And in Shaun Wright-Phillips they have a real star of the future. He was the one bright light on a day to forget for the blue half of Manchester; the adopted son of former Hammer Ian Wright was a constant thorn in the side of the Hammers defence all afternoon.
City took the lead on the half-hour, when a mix up between Ian Pearce and Shaka Hislop allowed Spencer Prior to ghost in and nod home a simple goal. It followed a period of sustained pressure for the Hammers, and had the home fans thinking 'here we go again'.
But whatever Hammers boss Harry Redknapp said to his team at half-time obviously had the desired effect. Just 8 minutes after the break a fine move down the left flank ended with captain Steve Lomas steering home a shot from close range, despite the almost heroic attempts of Nicky Weaver to keep the ball out.
Lomas obviously revels in playing against his former employers. It was his goal in January 1998 that decided the match the last time the two sides met (in the third round of the FA Cup at Maine Road, which the Hammers won 2-1).
Number two arrived just five minutes later. Trevor Sinclair was first to react to a loose ball in the City box and managed to steer the ball home from an acute angle.
Goal of the day came on 66 minutes - the third in 13 minutes for the Hammers. Freddy Kanoute went on a mesmerising run down the right, and his pinpoint cross to the near post was nodded home by Ian Pearce, who had run all of 100 yards to get on the end of it. Not bad for a player enjoying just his third game back after a year out of action.
The final goal arrived in the final minute of the game; Freddy Kanoute was about to unleash a shot when he appeared to be bundled over by Spencer Prior in the box. Referee Geoff Winter, who had a good game overall had no hesitation in pointing to the spot despite the protestations by the men in the peculiar silver and luminous yellow strip. Up stepped Paolo Di Canio who almost mockingly chipped the ball over Nicky Weaver for goal number four.
A word on Paulo Wanchope. You have to feel sorry for the big fella; you could see he was out to prove a point today. However, his personal humiliation was completed late in the second half when he was hauled off by Joe Royle to jeers and abuse from the home crowd, whose anger had been fuelled by a tabloid back page this morning which cited Wanchope as claiming sections of the West Ham fans were racist.
The win lifts the Hammers above City and Southampton into 13th place in the table. The Hammers are now starting to embark on a good run; if they continue to play like they did today Harry Redknapp's forecast that they will be challenging for a European place come May may not seem so far-fetched after all.
West Ham United: Hislop, Sinclair, Ferdinand, I Pearce, S Pearce, Lomas, Kanoute, Winterburn, Lampard, Carrick, Di Canio.
Subs: Bywater, Potts (Di Canio 89), Moncur, Diawara, Suker
Manchester City: Weaver, Howey, Prior, Ritchie, Charvet, Wiekens, Haaland, Whitley, Wright-Phillips, Wanchope, Kennedy.
Subs: Wright, Bishop, Dunne (Ritchie 67), Allsopp (Wanchope 67), Horlock
Goal Scorers: Prior (31), Lomas (53), Sinclair (58), Pearce (66), Di Canio (pen 89)
Sent off: None
Referee: G. Winter
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