Di Canio's class provides lift for Redknapp

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The Independent Online

Some managers of London clubs get the sack for better starts to a season than West Ham's, so the fact that Harry Redknapp's men remain bottom of the Premiership without a win so far, and he seems as secure in his job as ever, must remain a perplexing question to Gianluca Vialli, who was relieved of his duties at Chelsea last week.

Some managers of London clubs get the sack for better starts to a season than West Ham's, so the fact that Harry Redknapp's men remain bottom of the Premiership without a win so far, and he seems as secure in his job as ever, must remain a perplexing question to Gianluca Vialli, who was relieved of his duties at Chelsea last week.

However, despite being at the foot of the table, Redknapp's men at least showed the qualities of survivors to come back for the third time this season and earn their third point, having outplayed their visitors for the vast majority of the game.

If West Ham earned points for possession instead of goals, then they would have won this game hands down and would be on their way out of the relegation zone. As it is, they took until the 68th minute to earn the penalty that Paolo Di Canio coolly converted, and equalise Steven Gerrard's 12th-minute strike from close range.

For a team that was running the game comfortably, that should have been the cue for them to go on and win, something they are used to doing in this fixture, having beaten Liverpool at Upton Park for the last three years. And with Joe Cole and Di Canio in particularly impressive form they had the players to create chances. Yet,despite seeing so much of the ball, they failed to force a save of note from Liverpool's Sander Westerveld.

Playing all the pretty stuff, West Ham's equaliser then came from the most basic route, as Di Canio lobbed a ball to Frédéric Kanouté in the penalty area. It appeared the Frenchman had missed his chance to shoot, but Stéphane Henchoz helped out by bringing him down and Di Canio made no mistake from the spot.

Liverpool wore a tired look about them, which Gérard Houllier partly attributed to their having played in Romania in the Uefa Cup on Thursday. They won that game against Rapid Bucharest, but the three-day gap between games and the late return from the Romanian capital both took their toll.

It also led to Michael Owen, who set up the winner in that game, being ruled out of this one, which would have seen Liverpool rise to third if they had held on to their lead. The England striker, scorer of six goals this season, picked up a stiff back and Houllier did not want to risk his most precious asset.

Inevitably that left Liverpool's forward line bereft of a real threat, as Emile Heskey did little to suggest he was about to embark on a goal spree, but Gerrard at least was in the right place at the right time to give his side the lead.

With their only chance of note in the entire game, Nick Barmby robbed Steve Lomas of the ball and fed Danny Murphy, who raced down the left flank and crossed to the far post where Gerrard was waiting to pounce at full stretch. However the England midfielder, on his comeback from injury, picked up another strain and limped off with 18 minutes remaining.

Just two points away from the safety zone after only six games, Redknapp is not feeling the heat just yet. In fact, given his post-match exuberance, you would think they were mid-table, not bottom of the table.

He said: "There's absolutely no shortage of confidence here. I've got a fantastic group of players. It's only a matter of time before we put together a run and this is the best team there's been here in 20 years."

But worryingly for West Ham fans who remember that far back, West Ham were aSecond Division team then.

Goals: Gerrard (12) 0-1; Di Canio pen (68) 1-1.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Hislop; Ferdinand, Pearce, Stimac; Sinclair, Cole, Carrick, Lomas, Winterburn; Kanouté, Di Canio. Substitutes not used: Forrest (gk), Peacock, Keller, Potts, Newton.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Westerveld; Traoré, Henchoz, Babbel, Song; Barmby, Carragher, Hamann, Gerrard (Heggem, 72); Murphy (Ziege, 71); Heskey. Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Fowler, Diomÿde.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

Booked: Liverpool: Murphy, Song.

Man of the match: Di Canio.

Attendance: 25,998.

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