Football: Hurricane Hadji happens

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The Independent Online
Coventry City 1

Hadji 36

West Ham United 0

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 19,993

WEST HAM, reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of John Moncur in the second half, were left feeling decidedly depleted at Highfield Road as Moustapha Hadji's debut Premiership goal secured only Coventry's second League win of the season. While the Moroccan's skills proved a constant irritation yesterday, the Londoners ultimately suffered a second successive defeat on their travels because of the goalkeeping excellence of Magnus Hedman. All England prays the Swede will produce this sort of form against Poland next month.

Coventry survived strong appeals for a penalty after just two minutes. Trevor Sinclair cut in from the right to direct a fearsome, low drive that Hedman spilled on the six-yard line. As Frank Lampard went for the loose ball he appeared to be held back by Richard Shaw.

Yet the home side were just as full of invention, with Hadji producing some delightful pieces of trickery. One helped to set up a great Coventry chance, which ended with Paul Telfer's cross from the right and Robbie Keane's glancing header that Shaka Hislop half stopped before pouncing on the rebound. A minute later Sinclair reached the byline and pulled the ball back for Lampard to clip over the bar from eight yards.

Keane then touched the ball to Hadji, whose first-time volley from way out on the right forced Hislop into a flying save.

Paolo Di Canio rifled a shot wide after a Sinclair and Moncur build-up, before Coventry took the lead in controversial circumstances in the 36th minute. Igor Stimac ushered Keane to the line, and the Irishman ran the ball out of play in front of the linesman, who awarded West Ham a throw. However, the referee, David Elleray, some 25 yards away, signalled a free- kick against the defender, who was booked for complaining. West Ham were further punished when Hadji headed home Gary McAllister's free-kick from six yards.

It was almost two four minutes later when Hislop came rushing out of his goal to block a Keane run with his chest. His momentum took him further and further out of his box. He was almost on the centre circle when Youssef Chippo lived up to his name, lobbing towards the net for Steve Potts to chest the ball off the line and clear.

Paulo Wanchope should have equalised a minute later when he was clear in the box, but his first touch took the ball across the six-yard line with Hedman beaten, and the striker could not regain control quickly enough.

Two minutes into the second half, West Ham wasted another chance. A Keller corner reached Sinclair, on the apex of the six-yard box and unmarked, but his free header was weak and held easily by Hedman.

Hedman produced a stunning save after 59 minutes, palming over a Lampard drive after Di Canio's astute short corner. Moncur, who had just forced Hedman into yet another save, was sent off after 71 minutes for kicking out at McAllister after the Scot had appeared to hold him down after the two men had tangled on the ground.