Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 26,010
THE TEAMS that will top the Premiership pinnacle come next May are likely to do so because of their squad depth. The capital's first derby of the season provided compelling evidence of that, with both West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur looking for a way to navigate their inability to compete at the top end of the transfer market.
Not surprisingly Harry Redknapp, who admitted afterwards that he has been forced to shop in the "bargain basement" was mightily satisfied with his side's attacking inventiveness which resulted in this narrow win over Spurs thanks to Frank Lampard's late first-half goal.
Redknapp's main worry is in defence. "I haven't got four fit defenders," he said as he contemplated how he will juggle his limited resources. For a side that conceded 53 goals last season, West Ham looked assured at the back which was testament to the "outstanding performance" as Redknapp put it of the redoubtable if pensionable Stuart Pearce.
It is at the other end of the pitch where Spurs's problems lie. George Graham's shortage of striking alternatives in effect stymied the Worthington Cup holders' aspirations. "West Ham passed the ball very well and they made us look worse than we are," said Graham afterwards. "They outplayed us in the first half."
Spurs have spent most of the summer playing the role of chief tease - witness the breakdown of the Naguan Garayeb and Michael Bridges moves - in the transfer market. Yesterday the boot was on the other foot, as West Ham mercilessly teased their north London rivals for long stretches of this game.
In the game's opening moments it was Paolo di Canio who was at the centre of all West Ham's best work. One moment of skill on the right wing where he skipped, danced and jockeyed his way past three challenges was breathtaking.
Not only was Harry Redknapp's side's football expansive in the first half it was also threatening. Blink in the opening minute and you would have missed Paulo Wanchope heading against the bar after Paolo di Canio dinked over a near-post corner.
The Costa Rican, a pounds 3.5m summer signing from Derby, went close again when he drew a desperate one-handed save from Ian Walker after Wanchope connected with Trevor Sinclair's deep cross from the right.
Spurs were rattled. So much so that the players' had hardly broken sweat before Sol Campbell picked up a yellow card for a lunge on Marc-Vivien Foe.
The booking had been administered by the referee Paul Durkin. Before the half-hour had gone, Durkin and Campbell had exited the stage after they both picked up injuries. The former was replaced by David Elleray; the latter by John Scales.
Just before the interval, Ian Pearce also had to depart after coming off the worst in a heavy collision. This after just returning to the side having recovered from a broken leg. "It's a bad ligament injury and it's going to be a matter of months, rather than weeks, before he's back," Redknapp said.
West Ham, on the stroke of half-time, finally took a deserved lead. Di Canio, as ever, lurking dangerously just outside the box, picked up the ball and found Frank Lampard in space. The England under-21 international made no mistake with a deft finish.
Graham did not dally in making changes to a side that had been decidedly off the vibrant pace that West Ham had set. Off came Jose Dominguez and, more surprisingly, David Ginola to be replaced by Les Ferdinand and Oyvind Leonhardsen, making his Spurs debut after his pounds 3m move from Liverpool. "It wasn't a tactical decision," said Graham. "Some players take longer to get match fit."
Leonhardsen's relentless foraging and enthusiasm was counterpointed by a subdued performance from Spurs' contract refusenik Darren Anderton. The England international, perhaps chastened by chairman Alan Sugar's dressing down over his pecuniary demands, struggled all afternoon to get the better of Scott Minto.
Spurs, for the last 20 minutes, were forced to play with 10 men after Justin Edinburgh limped off.Reuse content