Di Canio the catapult

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The Independent Online

Five months ago Paolo Di Canio produced a display that Gordon Strachan described as the "finest individual performance I've seen for a long time" as West Ham routed the Coventry manager's team 5-0 at Upton Park. The mercurial Italian was at it again yesterday as the London side strolled to their first Premiership win since that fine day in April.

Five months ago Paolo Di Canio produced a display that Gordon Strachan described as the "finest individual performance I've seen for a long time" as West Ham routed the Coventry manager's team 5-0 at Upton Park. The mercurial Italian was at it again yesterday as the London side strolled to their first Premiership win since that fine day in April.

Elaborate dives, delicate drag-backs and sublime skill are all included in the Di Canio package as the 32-year-old waltzed his way through a demoralised, error-prone defence. The talented Roman pounced on a Richard Shaw mistake in the 39th minute to kick-start a match that had been, in Strachan's words, "the most dire in more than five years as manager" after both sides looked devoid of ideas in a sleepy opening half-hour.

Frédéric Kanouté powered past a lethargic Paul Williams down the left flank and when his cross was scuffed clear by Shaw, Di Canio took his time before threading the ball past a stranded Magnus Hedman.

Before the shell-shocked home side could respond, Di Canio weaved more magic as he delivered an inch-perfect cross for the teenager Joe Cole to fire home at the back post a minute later. It was all too much for Coventry, booed by their own frustrated support. As the home side pushed forward in an attempt to reduce arrears, the fit-again Frank Lampard sidefooted home a 69th-minute Kanouté cross to help lift West Ham off the foot of the table.

"I knew it was only a matter of time as we've played well in every game this season," their manager, Harry Redknapp, acknowledged. "We were by far the better team and we could have scored a lot more. You have to look at the whole picture and they didn't have a strike at goal in the first half."

While Di Canio took the plaudits, the display by Cole was a worthy support act and Redknapp predicted that his young midfielder would terrorise international defences as an emerging England player in the coming months. "Joe was fantastic and he's got everything. When he gets on the ball his pace is frightening and his heart is as big as a lion. He leaves defenders for dead and if he can add a few more goals to his armoury, he'll be something special."

His dejected opposite number, Strachan, was "clutching at straws to find some positive aspects". "The ultimate responsibility is down to me but individuals need to have a good look at themselves," he said.

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