Football: Yeboah stands alone in morass of mediocrity

Leeds United 1 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Online
After the short-lived euphoria of the swashbuckling victory over Spurs less than a week ago, Harry Redknapp could have been excused if he had been left speechless by both the abysmal quality of this match and the way in which it was lost.

Redknapp did manage to find two words to fit the goal his defence presented to Lee Sharpe: "sloppy" and "scandalous".

Both would have served as a description of the game as a whole. There were excuses from both camps. Some of them partially valid. The wind was a menace; the pitch, for which the playing of the occasional rugby league match no longer provides a convenient alibi, was a disgrace.

The real victims, however, were not the players and managers who found it impossible to guarantee tolerably skilful football. They were paying customers. All 30,000 of them, who endured a match whose numbing awfulness will not be surpassed this season. In that sense, the deciding goal, the product of a total breakdown in communications between Julian Dicks and Ludek Miklosko, was an apt one.

"It was a terrible, terrible goal and but for that we would have got something out of the game," said Redknapp, employing the managers' coy short hand for saying that without it this would have been a rock- solid 0-0 draw.

"It was a bad day all round," he said, reflecting on the extra self-inflicted blow of having Michael Hughes sent off for kicking out at Lucas Radebe 13 minutes from time. The few bursts of activity which, however briefly, enlivened the game, came, almost exclusively, from Tony Yeboah.

Leeds' supporters got what they had been clambering for when George Graham included him in the starting line-up for a home Premiership game for the first time since the 2 March last year - an astonishing time lag for one whose heroic status at Elland Road remains so intact.

Graham stubbornly declined to praise the Ghanaian afterwards. Had he thought he looked sharper? Well, he had a terse, one-word answer to that: "No" - although he did add that Yeboah "did OK but he needs more games".

Yeboah did lack full match fitness, which has been Graham's excuse for continuing to leave him out, but even in relatively sluggish mode he created more excitement than the rest of the participants put together.

"I expected a very dour match today and I wasn't disappointed," said Graham, who seemed happy enough with that as an epitaph for a match so forgettable that it was almost perversely memorable.

Goal: Sharpe (47) 1-0.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn; Halle, Molenaar, Wetherall, Harte; Rush, Radebe, Bowyer (Palmer, h-t), Sharpe; Deane, Yeboah. Substitutes not used: Gray, Ford, Jackson, Beeney (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker (Lampard, 83), Ferdinand, Bilic, Dicks; Moncur, Bishop (Omoyimni, 83), Hughes, Bowen (Rowland, 64); Kitson, Dowie. Substitutes not used: Potts, Sealey (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).

Bookings: Leeds: Wetherall, Harte, Yeboah. West Ham: Dicks. Sending-off: Hughes.

Man of the match: Yeboah.

Attendance: 30,575.