This is a nasty habit that West Ham have developed: nine days, three games, 12 goals conceded. Their third 4-0 defeat in succession was a humiliating occasion for Alan Curbishley who admitted that the pressure is now on him as his side finished with 10 men and little in the way of professional dignity.
Chelsea, Liverpool and then Tottenham yesterday have inflicted upon Curbishley the kind of scoreline that loses managers their jobs. The West Ham manager was scathing about Anton Ferdinand, who contrived to lose Dimitar Berbatov twice in the first 10 minutes and subsequently conceded two goals to the brilliant Bulgarian. And there was precious little sympathy for Luis Boa Morte who was sent off just before half-time.
West Ham are still 10th in the Premier League but, Curbishley admitted, with their goal difference "blown apart". Even he could not be sure that the club's board will keep faith in their manager after what he described as a "dreadful week". Curbishley said: "We are in football and nothing surprises me. They [the board] are realistic about what has gone on with injuries – but we will have to see. It's a results business and before this last week we were doing OK."
These are dark days indeed, especially among the West Ham support who, at two goals down, sang to their Tottenham counterparts "You're shit if you don't beat us 4-0". And so it came to pass. After Berbatov's two goals in the first 10 minutes, the substitutes Gilberto da Silva and Darren Bent added two more in the final 10 minutes of the game. Spurs emerged from their mini-slump since the Carling Cup final victory in style.
Not so Ferdinand who has played a key role in West Ham's most recent difficulties. "I was more disappointed Berbatov got a free header when there was someone designated to mark him – it was Anton," Curbishley said. "I said to him he's got to dig in. He gave a penalty away against Chelsea very early on which put us on the back foot and you can't let the centre-forward [Berbatov] get two free headers in the area."
Boa Morte looked a liability from the moment he flew into Alan Hutton in the first of two bad challenges that preceded his first booking for a foul on Tom Huddlestone. When he clattered Aaron Lennon just before half-time it was enough to earn him his seventh red card in English football. The Portuguese winger cut such a pathetic figure as he trudged to the tunnel that even Juande Ramos gave him a consoling pat on the shoulder.
Curbishley admitted that after "two wallopings" from Chelsea and Liverpool he had asked for more "aggression and application" from his players but he did not quite have Boa Morte's reaction in mind. "He [Boa Morte] had put in a whole-hearted performance, he was on thin ice and he had to make sure he got through to half-time," Curbishley said. "He's a very explosive player and he's been done for persistence. It [the red card] killed the game somewhat."
In reality, the game had been long since deceased as a contest before that. Tottenham benefited from an excellent first-half performance from Berbatov, aided by two beautifully executed free-kicks from Huddlestone, who picked out the striker from the right and left wing in the space of three minutes. Twice Berbatov lost Ferdinand to nod the ball past Robert Green and decide the game before Curbishley's side could find their rhythm.
At half-time and the end of the game, Curbishley pursued referee Foy down the tunnel in a rage. In his first rant within earshot of the press box he described Berbatov as having "gone down like a sack of shit", although he put it a little more eloquently after the match. "He's 6ft 3in and he fell over in three stages," Curbishley said. "They [the referees] spend all week looking at videos and they have to realise these things are going on."
What was really going on was another terrible West Ham performance. Bobby Zamora played for the first time since August; Scott Parker was back for the first time since 29 December. Curbishley said that Parker, Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy, Zamora and Julian Faubert have played just 20 games between them. But there will have to be a dramatic improvement against Blackburn on Saturday if the disillusioned West Ham support is to be turned around.
Jonathan Woodgate was substituted with a sore ankle but Ramos said that he hoped the defender would be fit for Thursday's second-leg Uefa Cup game against PSV Eindhoven. "It was important to get a victory to recover the players' self-esteem," the Spurs manager said. Jermaine Jenas should be back in time for Thursday but Huddlestone's performance will have reassured Ramos that he has an in-form replacement.
With six minutes left, Gilberto finished after Lennon had dummied Pascal Chimbonda's ball. Then in injury time, Bent headed in a cross from the impressive Hutton. "We're going to lose 4-0," the West Ham fans had sung – on reflection, they really should be careful what they wish for.
Goals: Berbatov (8) 1-0; Berbatov (10) 2-0; Gilberto (85) 3-0; Bent (90) 4-0.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate (Tainio, 76), Chimbonda; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora, Malbranque (Gilberto, 57); Keane, Berbatov (Bent, 69). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Boateng.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Ferdinand, Spector, McCartney; Ljungberg (Pantsil, 70) Parker (Noble, 75), Mullins, Boa Morte; Ashton (Cole, 76), Zamora. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Solano.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: West Ham United Boa Morte.
Sent off: West Ham United Boa Morte
Man of the match: Huddlestone.
Attendance: 36,062.Reuse content