Spencer resplendent

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The Independent Online
West Ham United 1 Chelsea 3

Chelsea won their first Premiership match of the season in style last night: a last-minute goal by John Spencer, made by Ruud Gullit, rounding off a satisfying night's work. Two minutes earlier, Ludek Miklosko saved a penalty from Dennis Wise after Spencer had been tripped.

Iain Dowie, making, as it were, his encore debut after re-signing for the home side for pounds 500,000, laboured diligently but uninventively - a performance which characterised the team he has rejoined. He may be a student of rocket engineering, but it will take more than him to propel West Ham away from trouble.

After an opening quarter of an hour, in which both teams demonstrated a lack of coherence, West Ham thought they had a glimpse of something precious and lasting.

Cottee chested the ball down deliberately for Dowie on the edge of the box. The resulting shot was blocked, but this was just the kind of interplay which West Ham's manager, Harry Redknapp, must have hoped for from the Irishman.

Chelsea's response was swift. Spencer broke down the right wing and his near-post cross was driven narrowly wide by Mark Hughes, seeking to add to his single goal this season.

The visitors lost their composure briefly as Spencer and Frank Sinclair were booked within the space of five minutes for fouls respectively on Dicks and Cottee.

On the half-hour, however, the difference in class between the sides became starkly evident. Steve Potts' long ball released a posse of four West Ham players into the Chelsea box, faced by only two defenders. But Dowie drove in a predictable long shot rather than considering his options. Within a minute Chelsea were one up. Scott Minto's cross from the left was headed down at the far post by Hughes and Wise reached the ball first to drive it inside the post.

Chelsea extended their lead after 35 minutes when Spencer was given time to look up and speculate before scoring with a low shot from 25 yards which took a deflection off Potts.

The visiting crowd were exultant and insulting. It was all too much for Julian Dicks, who - not for the first time in such circumstances - lost his head while challenging Spencer and damaged his opponent's head with what looked like a spiteful stamp. Spencer appeared in the second half heavily bandaged.

West Ham appeared reinvigorated after the break, however. After Cottee had missed two chances - one simple, one difficult - their forward play finally went to plan to bring them a goal in the 73rd minute. A long corner was headed back by Dowie, headed on by Cottee, and turned in by Don Hutchison.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Potts, Rieper, Dicks; Slater, Moncur, Hutchison, Bishop (Lazaridis, 71); Cottee, Dowie. Substitutes not used: Martin, Sealey (gk).

Chelsea (5-3-2): Kharin; Minto, Sinclair, Gullit, Johnsen, Clarke; Wise, Newton, Peacock (Lee, 74); Hughes, Spencer. Substitutes not used: Stein, Hitchcock (gk)

Referee: R Hart (Co Durham).

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