Middlesbrough 2 West Ham United 0
Middlesbrough 2 West Ham United 0
18 October 1999
THE TAKINGS were no doubt down in Harry's Bar last night, as West Ham failed to warm up for fresh European conflict in quite the way they desired.
Yet, it must be stressed, that was not because they performed like a pub team, which one of their former players, Celtic's Eyal Berkovic, recently accused them of being.
Even a team which has been riddled with as many self-doubts as Middlesbrough were compelled to take advantage of what, for West Ham, was an unequal 10-man struggle. While they made an unbelievable meal of it, Middlesbrough succeeded only when a substitute, Alun Armstrong, scored a second goal in the 89th minute, giving them their first victory in the Premiership since 11 September.
This was an occasion, however, that helped to remind us that, with Uriah Rennie, things are inclined to be different. As if to emphasise the point, the Sheffield official lost no time in stamping his authority on the game. The result was that Paolo Di Canio was booked for diving after he had failed to by-pass a Gary Pallister challenge on the edge of the box.
Yet, compared with that little contretemps, what followed, after 27 minutes of jousting, was potentially result-shaping. Not that there was any element of marginalisation about the decision which saw Shaka Hislop red-carded out of the match for blocking a Hamilton Ricard shot with his arms when he was well outside the penalty area.
Indeed, Hislop knew what was coming as, almost cricket-style, he walked practically before Rennie had given him the official push.
By that stage, Middlesbrough ought to have been at least a goal to the good. However, whatever benefits Ricard's recent sunshine tonic trip had brought, there is no evidence that it has improved his finishing technique. Ultimately substituted, something of a mercy decision, it was a nicely weighted pass from Juninho that presented him with an inviting early opportunity, but the Colombian drove wide.
In that period, Juninho was the player evidently intent on running the game, a mantle Paul Ince was to inherit. Yet if there was numerical advantage for the Brazilian's team, the numbers did not quickly add up to a goal or anything resembling one. Ricard squandered another opportunity before the defender Colin Cooper wasted the best chance of the opening half, swinging wildly at an Ince knock-down.
West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, had hoped that his side could dig in and continue to frustrate Middlesbrough, but these aspirations lasted only until the 54th minute, when Brian Deane claimed his fifth Premiership goal of the season. Ince was instrumental in it, curling a left-foot shot against the bar, and Deane benefited from a benevolent rebound, which he fired in. Just...
The departure of Ricard on the hour was scarcely a bolt from the blue, given the number of chances he had wasted. He looked so distraught as he trudged off that a call to the Samaritans almost looked on.
To the Hammers' credit, they did not throw in the towel and a clever piece of footwork almost saw Di Canio equalise, his face contorting in pain because of the narrowness of his scoring failure.
However, the home manager, Bryan Robson, suffered his own agonies as Middlesbrough threatened to punish the visitors, failing time after time. Ince deserved a goal and almost got one, driving against the base of an upright. But their shortcomings were summed up when Juninho raced half the length of the field to put one on a plate for Christian Ziege. Almost unbelievably, the German blasted over. Finally, they got it right as Armstrong claimed the second from close range.
Redknapp did not dispute Hislop's sending-off, but he was livid over Di Canio's booking. The Hammers' manager complained: "The moment ArsÃ¿ne Wenger [his Arsenal counterpart] opened his mouth and said Di Canio dived when we played them, I knew it would put doubts in the minds of referees.
"I am not being wise after the event. I told everyone at our club what would happen from then on. Wenger's big mouth has got Paolo booked today."
Goals: Deane (51) 1-0; Armstrong (88) 2-0.
Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer; Vickers, Pallister, Cooper; Fleming, Juninho, Ince, O'Neill, Ziege; Deane, Ricard (Armstrong, 59). Substitutes not used: Beresford (gk), Campbell, Summerbell, Gavin.
West Ham United (3-5-2): Hislop; Ferdinand, Stimac, Ruddock; Sinclair, Moncur (Forrest, gk, 27), Lampard, Lomas, Keller (Cole, 75); Di Canio, Wanchope. Substitutes not used: Potts, Carrick, Margas.
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).
Bookings: West Ham: Di Canio, Ruddock. Sending off: West Ham: Hislop.
Man of the match: Ince.