Football: Berkovic the bane of Spurs
Sunday 25 April 1999
West Ham United 2
Wright 5, Keller 66
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 36,089
IN THE week in which Manchester United reached the European Cup final, memories of Tottenham's own glory days on the Continent were revived before this game as the road leading to White Hart Lane's main gates was renamed Bill Nicholson Way. Nicholson took Tottenham to eight major trophies, including the Double in 1961 and the 1963 Cup-Winners' Cup, as he made Spurs the first English club to win a European competition, fully five years before United lifted the European Cup.
However, the likelihood of Tottenham being triumphant in Europe next season looks slim, although perhaps to judge their chances of success on this performance is unfair. They qualified by winning the Worthington Cup last month and have eased off since. In fact they eased off so much yesterday that they were a goal down after five minutes and two behind after 65 minutes against a West Ham side who are still chasing every point in their quest to play in the Uefa Cup next season, but may have to enter the Intertoto Cup first.
The Tottenham manager, George Graham - who admitted afterwards: "We looked jaded. We were poor until their second goal went in" - praised Harry Redknapp's side, saying: "West Ham were nice and bright, neat and tidy. They looked a good side."
Yet the east Londoners, who have almost turned giving away leads into an art form this season, nearly did it again. Their two-goal advantage came about thanks to an inspired Eyal Berkovic and because Tottenham piled forward to try to snatch a point. While David Ginola's brilliant 25-yard curling drive brought the home side back into the game, West Ham and their goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, in particular, stood firm. Too firm in the case of John Moncur, as his lunging tackle on Jose Dominguez three minutes into stoppage time brought a red card for the former Tottenham midfielder and sparked an 18-man confrontation in the centre of the pitch.
West Ham had the more depleted line-up of the two sides, starting without Marc-Vivien Foe, Paolo Di Canio and Neil Ruddock, while Marc Keller and Trevor Sinclair needed injections to play, but they made light of that and started off so brightly that they were in the lead after five minutes. Berkovic put Sinclair through and, although the Tottenham goalkeeper Ian Walker cleared the initial danger with a sliding tackle, the ball went only as far as Ian Wright and from 30 yards out he drove his chip into the empty net.
For the former Arsenal striker, a Tottenham shirt is virtually a red rag to a bull, and despite moving clubs last summer it still has not tempered Wright's fondness for scoring against Spurs.
Berkovic then twice came close to setting up a second West Ham goal either side of the break as, first, Frank Lampard put the Israeli's high through ball past Walker's post and then Keller hit the upright from 20 yards after Berkovic's short pass. However, Berkovic's persistence was rewarded as he put a pass through the square Tottenham defence, and Keller calmly slipped the ball under Walker's body.
That was the cue for Ginola's strike and a Tottenham onslaught during which Tim Sherwood and Sol Campbell, who is likely to miss England's friendly with Hungary in midweek through injury, forced saves from Hislop.
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
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