ONE MANAGER thought that referee Rob Harris had played a blinder - the other thought he had lost the plot. No prizes for guessing who said what after an incredible match that West Ham completed with only eight men. Ten yellow cards, three red cards, six goals, six arrests - what more could you ask for from your 90 minutes?
What it all means in the cold light of day is that Leeds United have qualified for next season's Uefa Cup in David O'Leary's first season as manager, and barely a week after signing a new five-year contract, while West Ham's Harry Redknapp is struggling to field a side for the remaining two games of the season as most of those not injured will now be suspended.
"I don't know what I'm going to do for that last game of the season against Middlesbrough," said Redknapp, whose very first words were unprintable after seeing Ian Wright, Shaka Hislop and Steve Lomas sent off. "It was hard enough finding 11 players today. You can't do anything about it, but it just means I won't be able to get a team together.
"I thought we were tremendous with 10 men and for 65 minutes we looked level," he added, and it was true. Leeds were facing a dangerous, wounded animal for much of the match and it was only after Hislop had been shown the red card for bringing down Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on the hour, and Ian Harte had converted the penalty, that Leeds could afford to relax.
"I thought the referee had an excellent game, although I might not agree with the letter of the law in the case of the goalkeeper," said O'Leary. "I would have thought a penalty and a booking would be justified. Although we may not like it, the referee has to carry out the law and you can't blame him."
The Hammers made a terrible start, conceding a goal to Hasselbaink in the first move of the game and when Wright was shown a second yellow card, for reacting angrily to a flailing arm from Harte with just 17 minutes gone, it was always going to be death or glory for West Ham. In the end it was death, but a slower one than might have been predicted when Alan Smith put Leeds two up in the sixth minute of first-half injury time.
Paolo Di Canio, who never stopped running, pulled one back straight after the break and for a while West Ham were inspired. But soon after John Moncur's angled drive was beaten out by Nigel Martyn, Hasselbaink got the better of the makeshift central defender Marc Vivien Foe and Hislop brought him down.
Thereafter it was a question of how many more Leeds would score and how many men would be on the pitch by the end of a game full of choice tackles.
As it turned out it was two goals for Leeds, courtesy of Ian Bowyer and Alf Inge Haaland, and one more red card for West Ham. There were no complaints from Redknapp about that, a wild challenge by Lomas on Harte, but he must be wondering why his team's discipline simply deserted them.
More disturbingly for the club, the first of the day's arrests was the result of a spectator running on to the pitch to confront the referee's assistant following Wright's sending-off. The situation was hardly helped by Wright's own behaviour, having to be forcibly restrained by team-mates from taking a leaf out of Di Canio's book.
Wright investigation, page 7
Goals: Hasselbaink (1) 0-1; Smith (45) 0-2; Di Canio (48) 1-2; Harte (pen, 62) 1-3; Bowyer (78) 1-4; Haaland (79) 1-5.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Lomas, Foe, Ruddock, Minto; Sinclair (Cole, 69), Lampard, Berkovic (Forrest, 61), Moncur; Wright, Di Canio (Coyne, 84). Substitutes not used: Keller, Lazaridis.
Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Haaland, Woodgate, Radebe, Harte; Bowyer, Batty, McPhail, Kewell; Hasselbaink (Wijnhard, 82), Smith (Ribeiro, 87). Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Wetherall Halle.
Referee: R Harris (Oxford).
Bookings: West Ham: Moncur, Wright, Foe, Ruddock, Di Canio, Minto. Sending- offs: Wright, Hislop, Lomas. Leeds: Smith, Batty, Wijnhard.
Man of the match: Bowyer.
Attendance: 25,997.Reuse content