Cool Cole is no ordinary Joe

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The Independent Online

Joe Cole's hopes of adding a further reminder of his potential to England seemed enhanced when, until the 90th minute at Upton Park yesterday, his goal looked to be the winner. It should have been, but carelessness overtook the rest of the team and Bradford were allowed to equalise with their first away strike of the season.

Joe Cole's hopes of adding a further reminder of his potential to England seemed enhanced when, until the 90th minute at Upton Park yesterday, his goal looked to be the winner. It should have been, but carelessness overtook the rest of the team and Bradford were allowed to equalise with their first away strike of the season.

Harry Redknapp's view was that "One mistake cost us the game" and he blamed Trevor Sinclair for standing on the goal line for the late free-kick which led to the goal. Certainly Sinclair's error of judgement allowed Dan Petrescu to head in when otherwise he would have been off-side, but the blame should have been shared by the whole team because they relaxed and became sloppy.

For Bradford, the question of the day was whether the previous Monday's 7-2 win over Darlington in the Worthington Cup would serve as a step to regaining confidence after such an unpromising start to the season. Paolo Di Canio had belatedly brought West Ham's season to life by inspiring the previous weekend's 3-0 away win at Coventry, where Cole had been so influential that it would have been difficult for Kevin Keegan not to include him in the full England squad for next Saturday's match against Germany.

In spite of a claim by Bradford's manager, Chris Hutchings, that they man-marked Cole from the start, there was little evidence until much later in the game. Having had an 11th-minute opportunity to put themselves ahead when Igor Stimac lost possession as he moved back towards his own goal and offered Ashley Ward a chance that Shaka Hislop blocked, they fell behind simply through giving Cole the freedom of the penalty area.

Frédéric Kanouté comfortably took Wayne Jacobs out of the game down the right wing - an area in which Bradford had already appeared vulnerable - and centred hard and low. Cole had manoeuvred himself into a huge amount of vacant space and dipped his head to score what appeared to be an easy goal but was a test of his composure and accuracy.

Kanouté's gangling, deceptive and opportunistic movement when approaching the Bradford penalty area became increasingly useful. Cole used him as a decoy, coming in support from deeper positions and exploring the breadth of the field as he wished. In an attempt to stop him making greater use of his freedom, Bradford chose to replace the injured Gareth Whalley with Gunnar Halle who, for a time in the second half, successfully checked his avenues.

Halle's considerable influence over the game, albeit in a negative sense, came to an end when he bravely attempted to slide the ball away from Kanouté, who was bounding through the penalty area. A serious injury seemed to be his fate but he hobbled off with ankle ligament damage.

In the meantime Stuart Pearce had tired of West Ham's inability to build on their lead and made characteristic excursions downfield. From one of these he headed powerfully towards the goal line, but the ever diligent Stuart McCall cleared. Similarly, Bradford survived when a long shot from Michael Carrick seemed certain to go in, but Matt Clarke dived along his line to deflect the ball on to the post.

With neither Di Canio nor Benito Carbone reaching anything like the height of their abilities and Cole largely restricted to his one moment of improvisation, the game meandered into untidy obscurity. So West Ham had only themselves to blame when in the last seconds of normal time Stimac unnecessarily brought down David Wetherall. At last Carbone did something positive, his dangerous free-kick finding Petrescu, who glanced in an unchallenged equaliser.

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