Piquionne's perfect timing lifts Hammers
West Ham United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Striker heads first League goal to provide welcome relief for Grant and Green
Sunday 26 September 2010
Avram Grant turned his face to the heavens, spread his arms wide and roared in joyous celebration at the final whistle that confirmed West Ham United's first win of the season.
Their goalkeeper Robert Green also saluted the victory with a release of emotion that appeared to be directed towards the press box, after he had played a vital role with a couple of world-class saves to keep Tottenham at bay.
Both men deserved their moment of triumph, as they have battled with their own personal troubles in the first few weeks of the season. Grant has been subjected to rumours suggesting the club's co-owners, the Davids Sullivan and Gold, were thinking they had made a mistake in appointing him in the summer. One point out of their first five Premier League games constituted the club's worst start in their 115-year history.
So well might Grant celebrate after West Ham deservedly beat last season's fourth-placed team in a hugelyentertaining match that Tottenham's manager, Harry Redknapp, said was "like a basketball game" as play swung from one end to the other.
Green also had plenty of cause for relief, as his confidence appeared shot to pieces after his disastrous fumble in the World Cup that gifteda goal to the USA. He had been jeered by his own fans when he let in a soft goal in his last home game, against Chelsea.
Green's save to deny Luka Modric in the first half was simply sensational, coming as it did only 10 minutes after Frédéric Piquionne had put the home side ahead. Grant said of Green: "It was typical of him. It is the life of a sportsman. You become stronger and stronger when people say you are weaker and weaker. Rob showed today that the only place any sportsman needs to speak is on the pitch. No excuses, no explanation, just that he is agood goalkeeper."
West Ham did not play like a team propping up the division, and were at Tottenham from the very first minute. The joy at winning midweek in the Carling Cup at Sunderland had clearly given the whole squad a much-needed boost in confidence. They peppered Carlo Cudicini in the Tottenham goal with shots and the former Chelsea man did not look comfortable, particularly with a two-fisted punch to keep out a shot from Piquionne.
Redknapp admitted his makeshift defence, lacking Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Younes Kaboul, William Gallas and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, had been "all over the show for the first 15 minutes".
Kieron Dyer, making only his 10th start for the club he joined in August 2007, set up West Ham's goal in the 29th minute. He forced a corner, taken by Mark Noble, and Piquionne rose above Verdun Corluka to nod in his first League goal for the Hammers.
Tottenham's main threat was provided by the Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart, who was outstanding in his free role behind the lone striker, Peter Crouch. He forced Green into a wonderfully athletic save with one long-range effort, and moments later put another shot from distance just wide. The England man excelled again late in the first half with a one-handedparry on to the bar from Modric's half-volley after a brilliant run and cross by Aaron Lennon.
The second half was not quite as frantic as the first, but still West Ham continued to create chances. Cudicinipulled off a couple of fine saves to keep Spurs in the game, keeping out Victor Obinna's half-volley and a deflected shot from Noble that seemed destined for the top corner.
When Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone rounded Green but fired into the stand with the goal at his mercy, it was clear the points were going to West Ham, who managed to beat their former manager at the 11th time of asking. "It's the first time I have ever been beaten by the super Hammers," said Redknapp, who spent 15 years at Upton Park as player and manager.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Green
Match rating: 8/10
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