Sunday 20 August 1995
West Ham United 1
Leeds United 2
Yeboah 48, 57
CRYSTAL BALL gazing too early in a season is a glib and often dangerous activity but, barring a transformation bordering on the miraculous, it can be predicted that this could be the season of bursting bubbles rather than blowing them at Upton Park.
The Hammers went in at half-time a goal to the good and, so it seemed, in good heart. They took the lead in the fifth minute when Danny Williamson infiltrated the Leeds six-yard box unmarked at John Lukic's far post to poke home Keith Rowland's low cross. They might have been three up by the end of the half had Tony Cottee not seen Lukic pull of a good save from his volley and then direct a weak header straight into the keeper's hands. Both chances had been created by Don Hutchison's perspicacity.
They could also claim they were denied a penalty for a blatant John Pemberton handball, but the ominous signs of corrosion at the heart of the Hammers' defence were already evident. Tony Yeboah often looked too quick and too strong for his markers Steve Potts and Marc Rieper. Only timely late tackles by Julian Dicks saved their blushes on several occasions.
But the rot was really exposed three minutes after the restart when Gary Kelly's looping cross found Yeboah moving that vital yard clear of his markers to head the equaliser.
Gloom seemed to settle over the East Enders as if they knew their bluff had been called and it was merely a matter of time before their opponents, much better equipped in all departments, would triumph. The goal that secured it came in the 58th minute when more superb service from Kelly - an accurate, looping cross - created the opening for Yeboah to thump the winner left-footed beyond Ludek Miklosko.
Veteran warhorse Alvin Martin was called from the substitutes' bench along with their new Dutchman Marco Boogers for the last 10 minutes as the Hammers huffed and puffed in a forlorn attempt to save a game.
The ease with which Leeds snatched the victors' laurel wreath should not blind them to Brian Deane's discomfort when asked to play wide on the left, while Yeboah could be even more lethal with the right man by his side in the middle. But with the imperious Gary McAllister, the electrifying pace of Kelly and Gary Speed running the midfield shuttle these are nothing compared to the Hammers' deficiencies.
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