Jermain Defoe seems to forever be the talking point at West Ham - whether scoring goals, at the centre of transfer speculation, or receiving red cards. Unfortunately, it was his indiscipline that caught the eye in the London club's 1-1 draw at Walsall.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are all reportedly interested in the striker, but won't have been impressed with his performance yesterday. He was dismissed after just seven minutes to disadvantage West Ham for the entire festive period, as the draw specialists were forced to settle for another point.
Defoe's one crazy contribution was a kick at Walsall defender Ian Roper after he thought he had been fouled. Referee Scott Mathieson consulted his assistant before sending off the 21-year-old, who is destined to leave Upton Park during January's transfer window.
Mathieson explained that Defoe "swung a foot in the direction of an opposing player" and it was irrelevant that no contact had been made.
West Ham manager Alan Pardew saw things differently. "I thought he got fouled and kicked the floor in frustration," he said. "I said to him 'you are going to have to look at that again because I think your gut reaction was wrong', and the referee has been fair enough to say he will."
Walsall's ground staff deserve credit for getting this game started after torrential downpours in the Midlands. Six miles up the road, Wolves' Premiership fixture with Liverpool had been rained off, as had Birmingham's game with Middlesbrough, but there were no pitch inspections at the Bescot.
Within three minutes of Defoe's dismissal, Matthew Etherington cut the ball back across the penalty area for Marlon Harewood to lash the ball into the top corner.
For the remainder of the opening period, Walsall played in their opponents' half but could not break the visitors down. Gary Birch shot wide before he and Jorge Leitao both missed a low cross from Paul Merson.
Midfield veteran Merson had a good chance shortly after the break but shot wide after Ian Pearce had misjudged a long clearance. Walsall did have the ball in the back of the net on the hour mark, but Birch was adjudged offside when Merson's drive was deflected into his path.
The home side finally got a deserved leveller after 69 minutes when midfielder Vinny Samways' cross was nodded back across goal by Darren Wrack, and Portuguese striker Leitao was on hand to score.
"It is difficult when a team get a man sent off, because the expectation changes," said Walsall boss Colin Lee. "We were underdogs, then everyone expects it to be easier."
West Ham United 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 9,272Reuse content