Dicks' benefit game spoiled by brawls

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The Independent Football

There were unruly scenes at Upton Park yesterday as a benefit match for the former West Ham defender Julian Dicks descended into chaos. A 17-man brawl which saw the Hammers' captain, Paolo Di Canio, slapping Athletic Bilbao players in the face made it an unsavoury afternoon. The match, incidentally, was won 2-1 by the Spanish side.

There were unruly scenes at Upton Park yesterday as a benefit match for the former West Ham defender Julian Dicks descended into chaos. A 17-man brawl which saw the Hammers' captain, Paolo Di Canio, slapping Athletic Bilbao players in the face made it an unsavoury afternoon. The match, incidentally, was won 2-1 by the Spanish side.

The referee, Barry Knight, ordered the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, to substitute Di Canio, and Bilbao's coach, Txetxu Rojo, was told to take off the Spanish international striker Joseba Etxeberria, in a bid to defuse the hostilities.

The ugly scenes started just before the half-time break, after Nigel Winterburn had fouled Etxeberria. That started a brawl which flared up again moments later when Igor Stimac felled Ismael Urzaiz with a crashing tackle from behind, for which he was booked. Di Canio was reluctantly escorted off the pitch by Redknapp after the fracas, and he threw down his captain's armband in disgust.

On the plus side, more than 14,000 fans turned up to pay tribute to Dicks for his 10 years of loyal service, which were brought to an end by a knee injury. Urzaiz headed Bilbao ahead just after the interval. West Ham equalised after 69 minutes through a Paul Kitson header but another headed goal, from Francisco Yeste Navarro after 75 minutes, settled the game.

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