West Ham United 0
A MATCH in which defeat could have consigned Tottenham to the bottom of the Premiership rose above both that fear and the danger of anarchy. Chaos threatened an already exciting game when West Ham's tantalisingly exciting Samassi Abou was sent off and their manager, Harry Redknapp, left the dugout, as he explained it, to assist the referee in persuading Abou to leave the field. The referee David Elleray confirmed that opinion.
Redknapp later accused Tottenham's Ramon Vega of feigning injury in the incident with Abou which deprived West Ham of their most inventive player for the whole of the second half. He said Vega "rolled around as if he had a broken leg - all he broke was a tie-up".
The controversy drew attention away from Tottenham's deserved relief but the chance of their getting together a full squad of uninjured players gets no greater. Yesterday, though, at least they benefited quickly and encouragingly from the recovery of David Ginola, whose nimbleness on the left edge brought about Jurgen Klinsmann's first goal since coming back to Spurs. Ginola's centre was not spotted rapidly enough by Rio Ferdinand, so Klinsmann easily swept the ball in.
An eighth-minute lead was more than Spurs expected and doubtless more than their fans anticipated they would hold. Ginola's bright linking with Andy Sinton had a lot to do with Spurs creating several more opportunities before Abou began to awaken West Ham. His contest with Sol Campbell was a match in itself but one that, sadly, ended before half-time. Abou's almost mysterious ability to take the ball almost on to Campbell's toes before dancing away was in sharp contrast to John Hartson's directness - and much more effective.
What had the makings of a compelling game suddenly erupted into near chaos with the previously exemplary Abou thrusting out at Vega, who fell and rolled on the ground. "He was hurt but he is a strong man," Christian Gross, the Spurs manager claimed, but Redknapp saw it much differently. As Abou challenged the referee's decision to send him off, Redknapp rushed along the line. "He got hit and shouldn't have retaliated but Vega fell as if he was dead. Abou doesn't speak English. I wanted to get him off."
Elleray said: "My interpretation was that Mr Redknapp came to assist getting the player off the field. I have invited the FA to view the video. I shall be mentioning that Abou waved a finger under my nose and a couple of times he mildly touched me."
Elleray had taken advice from his assistant before dismissing Abou, whose fury threatened to turn the situation into a wholesale melee. Vega and Hartson were booked and half-time could not come too soon.
Redknapp's tactical reaction after the interval was to bring on Iain Dowie for Stan Lazaridis but West Ham endured a constant battering in which Craig Forrest saved them by deflecting a point-blank header from Campbell, and the outstanding Ferdinand somehow formed a last-second barrier to Klinsmann.
Given the slightest chance, West Ham risked further damage by counter- attacking imaginatively but, with the fresh David Howells and Jose Dominguez, Spurs could athletically absorb the danger. Meanwhile, Klinsmann at last enjoyed some space, running as of old at a retreating defence, but Spurs could still have forfeited their win with seven minutes remaining when Frank Lampard slid a shot across the mouth of the goal and saw Espen Baardsen dive to ease the ball round the post.
Baardsen then, almost comically, found himself face to face with West Ham's goalkeeper Forrest who, in a last-gasp effort to balance this absorbing game, tore into the Spurs goalmouth to unsuccessfully head a corner.Reuse content