Saturday, 18th August 2001
The work rate was, in my opinion, magnificent and whilst our frailities were evident, there was certainly no lack of commitment especially in the first half. Anyone doubting Di Canio’s ability and commitment to the claret & blue can be assured that he looks ‘up for it’ and I do not recall him losing possession once in the first half.
West Ham took the game to the Liverpool from the off and were unlucky to go 1-0 down although it has to be said that Owen looks really sharp this season and exposed our makeshift defence with his speed and touch to give Liverpool the lead. ‘Prepare for for the onslaught’ you may then have thought but our lads heads didn’t drop and we were subsequently rewarded when Todorov was tripped in the box and awarded a penalty (a little harsh it seemed at the time). Up steps Paolo and, right in front of the Kop, scores with a typically cheeky chip which only he has the confidence and ability to do. Rehearsed or not, it was significant that Di Canio ran immediately to Glenn on the sidelines where they embraced (no tongues though), to show unity and commitment to the cause.
There were a couple of ‘hairy’ moments in the next 15 minutes before half time. However, one scramble in our box led to a quick break where Paolo put Toddy clear but, shooting on his weaker side, he shot straight at Liverpool’s keeper. Joe also had a half chance to give us a half-time lead but again, his shot was stopped.
The first 20-25 minutes of the second half carried on the same but the industrious Moncur limped and was off after having twice been clattered into and things started to fall apart. Whether the lads ran out of steam or not I don’t know, but we lost our shape and Liverpool stepped up a gear and took the lead with a great goal by Owen. Although we didn’t cave in then heads seemed to drop a little and you could sense that this time we wouldn’t get back into it. Frustration crept in, which was not helped by some, in my opinion, disgraceful decisions by the referee throughout the game. Paolo finally reached boiling point and joined the referee’s ‘yellow card collection’ much to the delight of the Scousers. Even the introduction of McCann, Coutois and Defoe failed to give us a lift. Jermaine will find the Premiership a whole new ball game. Lets hope that in time he will adapt sufficiently. So much is anticipated for him but he needs to keep a level head and not expect too much of himself.
The final whistle came and the team were given a standing ovation for their effort albeit in defeat, even from the Koppites who had been strangely quiet throughout the game, unlike the Hammers travelling support which continued singing magnificently, much to the bewilderment of a large Oriental contingent of Liverpool fans next to us, for the whole 90 minutes and more.
So there you have it, game one over, no rout as many outsiders predicted. Overall a pretty good performance from, as I said, a makeshift side. We will improve and we will survive. The only criticism I had was during set pieces. We are supposed to have been working on them, although that wasn’t evident as we always seemed to lose possession straight away.
Still, it may not be orange but the future looks bright ...
West Ham United: Hislop, Schemmel, Winterburn, Dailly, Song, Carrick, Moncur, Cole, Sinclair, Di Canio, Todorov
Subs: McCann (Moncur 70), Defoe (Todorov 72), Courtios (Cole 79)
Liverpool: Arphexad, Babbel, Henchoz, Hyppia, Carragher, Biscan, Hamann, McAllister, Murphy, Littmanen, Owen
Subs: Risse (Babbel 46), Barmby (Biscan 56), Redknapp (Murphy 72)
Goals: Owen (18, 78), Di Canio (pen 29)
Booked: Dailly (dissent 37), Moncur (cynical foul 45), Todorov (foul 50), Sinclair (throwing ball away 53), Carragher (foul 73), Di Canio (kicking ball away 84)
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