Tottenham Hotspur 1 West Ham United 0: Jol defends Defoe's little 'nibble' on Mascherano

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The Independent Football

Just when West Ham United could not countenance their season becoming even more bizarre - what with the sudden arrival of Argentine World Cup stars, a foreign takeover and the collapse of their form - the midfielder Javier Mascherano was apparently bitten on the arm by Jermain Defoe yesterday.

The incident - although not the indentations - were confirmed by Tottenham Hotspur manager Martin Jol who also attempted to make light of it even though it resulted in a mêlée. "He [Defoe] said 'I was nibbling his arm'," Jol replied when asked what had happened after Mascherano tackled Defoe from behind in the first half and the former West Ham striker, barracked throughout by the visiting fans, thrust his head towards him.

"But there will not be a mark," Jol said before adding, even more surreally, "it's part of the game sometimes and they kicked him from behind three times in 10 minutes. He wanted to show his frustration in a comical way". Yes, very funny. West Ham manager Alan Pardew looked genuinely startled when asked for his own comments about the biting. "I didn't see why Javier reacted in the way he did," he said, although he pointed out that Defoe's aggressive stance could easily have warranted a dismissal in itself. Instead both players were booked.

In fairness, Pardew has much more to worry about at present than such antics which, it must be said, capped a harrowing afternoon for Mascherano, who looked a forlorn figure in midfield. Statistics tell their own damning story - seven defeats, no goals scored in 668 minutes and second from bottom in the table - but the mix of strained anger and crushing frustration in Pardew as he strode down the tunnel spoke of much, much more. Next up, tomorrow, is Chesterfield away in the league cup.

This contest, a London derby between the keenest of rivals, marked his fourth year in charge and the delight West Ham supporters felt at the last-day defeat of Spurs, which denied them a Champions' League place, was extinguished in the constant autumn rain.

For Spurs back then, there was also the brouhaha of alleged food poisoning - the illness of their players was eventually found to have been the result of a virus - and there was humour, perhaps inadvertent, in lasagne being provided in the press room before kick-off. "Lasagne, we leave out for the rest of my time here," growled Jol when asked if his players had been served the meal.

Revenge, though, remains a dish best served cold and Spurs earned their warranted victory through Mido's first goal of the season. The Egyptian replaced Dimitar Berbatov, working his way back to fitness and not risked. That gamble reaped its reward when, in first-half injury time, he collected Edgar Davids' low cross, flicked the ball up, swivelled and struck a low shot off the far post and beyond Robert Green. The goalkeeper, making his debut, had earlier saved brilliantly with his outstretched foot from Defoe while Aaron Lennon, on his first start since injury interrupted his season in August, skipped away from Anton Ferdinand and curled narrowly wide.

Lennon went on to be the contest's outstanding performer with his direct, pacy approach.

It also proved to be an eventful encounter for Mido, who struck the crossbar with a second-half header, after meeting Pascal Chimbonda's centre, and he was there to clear a goal-bound header from West Ham substitute Christian Dailly. That was the nearest they came. West Ham's commitment is unquestionable but, as Pardew admitted, so is their frustration. They still lack a bit of bite.

Goal: Mido (45) 1-0.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Ghaly, 78), Huddlestone, Jenas, Davids; Defoe (Keane, 78), Mido. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Murphy, Gardner.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Pantsil, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Reo-Coker, Mascherano (Tevez, 68), Mullins, Benayoun (Cole, 78); Harewood (Dailly, 82), Zamora. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Sheringham.

Booked: Tottenham Defoe, Mido, Davids. West Ham Konchesky, Mascherano, Harewood, Pantsil.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Man of the match: Lennon.

Attendance: 36,162.