Football: Hammers storm Metz citadel

Metz 1 West Ham United 3 West Ham win 3-2 on aggregate
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IT WAS nicknamed the Inter-TwoBob Cup, but the much derided Intertoto Cup will be worth considerably more than that to West Ham after last night's exciting second leg tie in northern France - one of the competitions three "finals" -brought them a place in the genuinely lucrative Uefa Cup.

Having come through two rounds played so long ago that England were winning the Test series, they retrieved a 1-0 deficit from the home leg with an accomplished display after withstanding heavy pressure when 2-1 up on aggregate.

The only blemish on the night was the behaviour of a small section of English supporters who did not appear to realise that hooliganism has gone out of fashion since the club's last appearance in Europe 19 seasons ago. After Metz had scored, they attempted to pull down a wire fence segregating the respective fans and had to be hosed down by stewards before Paulo Wanchope's decisive late goal mercifully brought a cooling off all round. The home side's outstanding little midfielder Frederic Meyrieu also was hit by a coin while taking a corner.

The setting - a refurbished tree flanked stadium on the bank of the Moselle - was more East Anglia than East London, but, after allowing Geoffray Toyes a free header earlier on, West Ham settled to a better rhythm than they had established on their own patch.

Paolo Di Canio and Marc-Vivien Foe had been rightly flagged offside after putting the ball in the net within six minutes of each other before the visitors came up with a strike that satisfied the referee's assistant as much as their supporters. Marc Keller came inside on his favoured right foot and found Di Canio, who laid the ball back for Trevor Sinclair to drive low past Lionel Letizi.

A most lively second quarter followed. Wanchope curled one of his deceptively lazy looking shots against the bar and, in the 44th minute, West Ham scored again. Di Canio returned Frank Lampard's pass across goal for the midfielder to steal in like a latter-day Martin Peters and side-foot home.

That meant Metz needed to score twice, which they came perilously close to doing. Five chances came and went in the first 20 minutes of the second half, Meyrieu striking the bar with the last of them. Then Nenad Gestrovic, a Yugoslav Under-21 international, left three defenders for dead and shot low across Shaka Hislop.

Eleven uncomfortable minutes later, Di Canio and John Moncur combined to put Wanchope clear for a decisive third goal. West Ham's manager Harry Redknapp said: "Everybody in England should know now that we've got a decent team. It's great for the club and everyone in it. West Ham fans deserve this - they're the best in my view." It would be nice if those supporters could try to avoid getting all English clubs banned from Europe again on the road to further adventures.

Metz (3-5-2): Letizi; Pierre (Asuar, h-t), Kastendeuch, Marchal; Schemmel, Boffin, Toyes, Meyrieu, Gaillot (Jager, 77); Gousse (Jestrovic, 57), Saha. Substitutes not used: Biancarelli (gk), Rizzetto, Van Handenhoven, Regis.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Hislop; Lomas, Potts, Ferdinand; Sinclair, Foe, Lampard, Moncur, Keller; Wanchope, Di Canio (Cole, 82). Substitutes not used: Forrest (gk), Kitson, Wright, Carrick, Abou, Angus.

Referee: M Krug (Germany).