Football: Lively Lazaridis

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The Independent Online
West Ham United 3

Hartson 48, Rieper 54, Berkovitch 55

Wimbledon 1

Ekoku 81

Attendance: 24,516

Under the appreciative gaze of Rod Stewart, apparently the latest famous convert to their flamboyant style, West Ham had fun at Wimbledon's expense yesterday as three goals in 10 minutes near the start of the second half underlined the superiority of Harry Redknapp's side.

Prompted by the bubbly Eyal Berkovitch in the first half, inspired by John Hartson's fine shot for the opening goal and encouraged throughout by the raw pace of Stan Lazaridis on the left wing, West Ham gave full value to a noisy Upton Park crowd. The bonus was the sight of Rio Ferdinand's precious talent, one that Glenn Hoddle has quite rightly identified as exceptional for such a young player.

Wimbledon's new-look back-line, with three central defenders instead of two, came under the microscope throughout much of the first 45 minutes. Lazaridis created the first chance, for himself, after 16 minutes, tearing past two defenders but then being consumed with uncertainty as he approached the penalty area and a shot beckoned. Chris Perry took advantage of the Australian's hesitation and blocked the attempt.

Eight minutes later Berkovitch slipped a great ball through to Tim Breacker, overlapping on the right, and his low cross looked tailor made for Iain Dowie but Perry arrived again in the nick of time. His clearance fell to Steve Lomas, who chipped intelligently over the scrum, only for Neil Sullivan to tip the ball over in spectacular fashion.

Having started with Dean Holdsworth and Jason Euell, Joe Kinnear brought on the A-team for the second half in the shape of Efan Ekoku and Marcus Gayle, but within two minutes Wimbledon were one down.

Seizing on a loose ball at the edge of the area, Hartson tried his luck from distance, not for the first time, but now his right-foot shot sped low past Sullivan. Ferdinand then showed his creative qualities with a delightful long ball to Lazaridis, who cut inside and brought a fine save . But after more good work from Lazaridis West Ham doubled their lead, this time Marc Rieper glancing in Berkovitch's free-kick. Little more than a minute later it was three as Berkovitch sprung the offside trap and finished coolly.

With 10 minutes to go, the old crooner Stewart and his cronies decided they had seen enough, which was the cue for Ekoku to reduce Wimbledon's arrears, but by then the Crazy Gang had been truly overrun.

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