West Ham Utd 3 Charlton Athletic 1: Bowyer excels as Zamora stuns 10-man Charlton

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The Independent Football

They will find this hard to believe up in Newcastle, but Lee Bowyer was the man of this match by some distance, laying on all three goals for West Ham as well as hitting a post with his new club's best-looking move.

Bobby Zamora's two second-half goals, one a tap-in and the other a grotesque miskick, wiped out the advantage Charlton had gained through a Darren Bent penalty, and then Carlton Cole, given his debut deep into added time in what looked like a time-consuming bid, scored the third with his first kick after being on the field for just eight seconds.

Though clear-cut enough, the victory was less impressive than might have been expected against opponents reduced to 10 men for three-quarters of the match. On his debut after signing from Liverpool, Djimi Traoré was shown two yellow cards in three minutes for crass behaviour, which brought the comment "disappointing" from Charlton's new manager, Iain Dowie.

It was, if not a perfect day, then a very good one for the Hammers in the opinion of their manager, Alan Pardew. "We are a vibrant side, strong young characters," he said, before launching into praise for Bowyer which included the assertion that he had given "an England performance".

Of the midfielder, who was consistently indifferent at Newcastle, Pardew said: "This guy is a fantastic player. A free transfer, my goodness, [signing him was] an absolute no-brainer. I told him when he came here that he needs to have his career remembered for winning something, not the other stuff that's gone on in the past."

Certainly Bowyer was far more sinned against than sinner. He it was who suffered a tackle from behind by Traoré in the 22nd minute which earned the first yellow card from the referee, Howard Webb. Three minutes later the Mali international fouled Marlon Harewood, and when Bowyer attempted to take a quick free-kick, Traoré stuck out a foot to block it. The second yellow was a formality.

By then West Ham were a goal behind and, in the opinion of Dowie, should also have been down to 10 men. Bryan Hughes lofted a pass towards Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and as the ball dipped late Danny Gabbidon, trying to prevent it reaching the striker, handled. After consulting a linesman, Mr Webb awarded the penalty, which Darren Bent crashed in off Roy Carroll's right-hand upright. "If it was a goal-scoring opportunity, Gabbidon should have been sent off," Dowie insisted, and Pardew agreed his defender was lucky.

Bringing on Gonzalo Sorondo into central defence and moving over Hermann Hreidarsson as Traoré's replacement at left-back, Charlton defended heroically, clinging on to their lead until the interval. However, it needed only seven second-half minutes for West Ham to draw level. Bowyer's low centre from near the right corner-flag was met with the merest touch at the near post by Yossi Benayoun's diving header, but it was enough to deflect the ball to Zamora, who converted at the far post.

Zamora accepted his second, in the 66th minute, without any outward show of embarrassment, though it is an early candidate for joke goal of the season. Bowyer, this time on the left, centred perfectly to Zamora, whose complete miscue wrong-footed Carson and sent the ball bouncing in off an upright.

Then Bowyer sent a shot glancing off the wood, and after what looked like Darren Bent's second of the match was denied for a foul on Carroll, West Ham seemed to have settled for the narrow win.

The introduction of Cole in injury time appeared nothing more than time-wasting, but Bowyer found him with another perfect chip for the former Chelsea man to run on to.

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