PAOLO DI CANIO's stormy relationship with Sheffield Wednesday, the club he left under a cloud last season, resumed yesterday as he played a crucial part in inflicting a defeat which keeps the Yorkshire club anchored to the foot of the Premiership.
The temperamental Italian, who has successfully revived his career at West Ham following the referee-pushing incident which ultimately ended his career at Hillsborough, scored a controversial 63rd- minute penalty to bring his side back to 2-2. And six minutes later he was the subject of a heavy challenge which saw the Wednesday midfielder Danny Sonner sent off in an incident which effectively tipped this exciting, error-strewn affair West Ham's way.
Wednesday's manager, Danny Wilson, who had suffered increasing agonies on the touchline, accused his former player of "over-elaborating" the challenge for which Sonner received his second yellow card of the game. "There was contact there, but it was not malicious," said Wilson, who also claimed that Wim Jonk, whose challenge on Trevor Sinclair brought West Ham their penalty, had made "no contact whatsoever" with the midfielder.
Television replays appeared to support Wilson's judgement over the penalty award, but while Di Canio certainly made the most of Sonner's challenge, spinning away and clutching his face, it was clear that he had received a body check and an elbow in the ear.
What was undisputed, as Di Canio - captain for the day - tugged at his West Ham shirt with characteristically crazed intensity at the final whistle, was the bitterness of this defeat for the visitors. With only one away Premiership goal to their credit before yesterday's match, Wednesday could hardly have expected to earn nothing for scoring another three.
By the time West Ham opened the scoring through Paulo Wanchope in the 27th minute, both sides might already have had two goals as both defences offered alarming signs of inattentiveness. Wednesday, having conceded 21 away goals already this season, were as secure as one might have expected. But West Ham's back line was also struggling.
Petter Rudi should have taken advantage after being presented with an open goal after just four minutes, but he shot horribly wide. Soon afterwards, Peter Atherton sent a free header over the West Ham bar. At the other end, Wanchope had an apparent goal disallowed for offside, and another point-blank header blocked. Wanchope, however, had his reward soon after as he headed in his first goal in 12 games after Di Canio's cross had created confusion in the away defence.
Eight minutes before half- time, however, Wednesday were level as Rudi atoned for his earlier miss by driving home a loose ball on the edge of the box, and the visitors silenced Upton Park three minutes after the break when they went ahead through a volley by Jonk.
The same player protested his innocence shortly after the hour after conceding the penalty which Di Canio made the most of, but Wednesday appeared on the brink of a vital win within three minutes as Andy Booth restored their lead with a diving header from Andy Hinchcliffe's cross.
Sonner's rash challenge changed all that, however. Following the free- kick he conceded, Marc-Vivien Foe brought West Ham level again with his first goal for the club, and with 13 minutes left, Frank Lampard quelled any last hope Wednesday's 10-men might have held out by cutting into the box past two challenges and firing home the winner.
Goals: Wanchope (28) 1-0; Rudi (38) 1-1; Jonk (48) 1-2; Di Canio (62 pen) 2-2; Booth (66) 2-3; Foe (70) 3-3; Lampard (76) 4-3.
West Ham United (3-5-2): Hislop; Potts, Ferdinand, Ruddock; Sinclair, Lampard, Cole, Foe, Keller; Di Canio, Wanchope. Substitutes not used: Forrest (gk), Moncur, Charles, Minto, Omoyinmi.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Nolan (Thome, 84), Atherton, Walker, Hinchcliffe; Alexandersson, Jonk, Sonner, Rudi (Cresswell, 82); Booth, De Bilde. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Sibon, Briscoe.
Referee: A Wilkie (Co Durham).
Bookings: West Ham: Foe. Wednesday: Jonk, Sonner, Booth, Nolan. Sending- off: Wednesday: Sonner.
Man of the match: De Bilde.
Attendance: 23,015.Reuse content