Di Canio leaves City feeling blue

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The Independent Online

Joe Royle knew what he wanted to say but it came out as: "in the first half we were outstanding but in the second we were equally bad." He could be forgiven. City collapsed in the second 45 minutes after dominating the first, and no manager can have a coherent answer to conceding three goals in 14 minutes.

Joe Royle knew what he wanted to say but it came out as: "in the first half we were outstanding but in the second we were equally bad." He could be forgiven. City collapsed in the second 45 minutes after dominating the first, and no manager can have a coherent answer to conceding three goals in 14 minutes.

Having managed only a draw at Derby earlier in the week, West Ham's notion that, given a clean bill of health and a fair wind, they would soon be sailing with kindly currents. But that was not the case.

Similarly, City, after a home defeat by Leicester last weekend, had Royle trying to sound convincing when saying that they were "not far away" from making a better impression. Promises, promises.

The absence of Joe Cole from West Ham's midfield was ominous, yet the positive way in which they approached the game camouflaged their loss. Within eight minutes, Trevor Sinclair had penetrated the City defence with a ball that Paolo di Canio clipped on to the crossbar. Frank Lampard got to the rebound but had his shot blocked by Laurent Charvet.

Clearly not wanting to be upstaged at the club he left during the summer, Paulo Wanchope led City's line with those elusive skills that can brighten a grey day and stretch even a central defender of Rio Ferdinand's ability. Indeed, West Ham's defence became stretched more often than they would have liked as Sean Wright-Phillips regularly tore through centrally or on the right side. He created the danger that forced Shaka Hislop to concede a 32nd-minute corner that Mark Kennedy dropped on to the head of Spencer Prior, who comfortably beat the goalkeeper.

West Ham's initial promise and enterprise seemed to drain away. On a day when Ferdinand needed to reinforce his England claims, he failed to dominate in the penalty area. As a result Hislop came under unnecessary pressure, and after he had punched off the line, Stuart Pearce had to clear from the same place from Alf-Inge Haaland.

City's neat, quick counterattacking was a constant problem to West Ham's midfield in which none of their players took responsibility. But after 53 minutes, Frédéric Kanouté centred low. Frank Lampard missed the ball, but in doing so wrong-footed the City defence. It ran on to Steve Lomas, who side-footed in.

Two minutes later, the young midfielder Michael Carrick squeezed a short cross between defenders in the penalty area and Sinclair struck in West Ham's second and his own first of the season.

Much as their attitude and perseverance had considerably improved in the second half, a third goal was flattering to West Ham. Even so, it was splendidly worked by the ever-dangerous Kanouté, running powerfully down the right side and crossing perfectly for Ian Pearce to head in.

Kanouté continued to run stylishly past most tackles but was often denied by the last one. Nevertheless, West Ham added a late fourth goal when Prior got desperate and fouled the Frenchman, allowing Di Canio to chip in a cheeky penalty.

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