Well he didn’t disappoint, did he? Ninety minutes of absolutely pulsating football, a game brimming over with excitement, three great goals, a team performance to savour, two players putting in their best ever performances for the club, a formation which was almost unfathomable, and a position where Lucas Neill looks comfortable. What more could a humble fan ask for?
The first thirty minutes was the best opening half an hour I can remember from a West Ham team. The tempo and fluidity of passing was astonishing. The tackling was first class and Newcastle looked as if they had wondered why they had bothered to turn up. Indeed, there was no period in the game when we really weakened. Although Newcastle found their feet a little more in the second half, especially after the Owen goal, we still didn’t really ever look as if we were under the cosh. And that was due in large part to the efforts of four players in particular – Scott Parker, Julien Faubert, Matt Etherington and Valon Behrami.
Parker was absolutley awesome today. He, Noble and Behrami controlled midfield. I had assumed Behrami would play on the wide right, but he had clearly been told to tuck in next to Parker, so we had a central midfield threesome which dominated the opposition. Faubert was immense at right back and looked completely at home, but as the game went on he got more space and bombed forward. He put in several very dangerous crosses and his tackling was hard.
Behrami got better as the game went on. He is slightly ungainly and awkward, yet his tenacity in chasing the ball often reaped great rewards. The watching Fabio Capello (who seems to have taken up residence at Upton Park) can only have been impressed by Parker. But I suspect he was also making copious notes about Matthew Etherington and Carlton Cole. Etherington was all over the place. For a lot of the game he drifted into the centre leaving the effervescent Di Michele wide left. I lost count of the times Matty ran at their defence and caused havoc. His goal was his just reward for one of his best games.
Carlton Cole also had his best ever game for the Hammers. He didn’t get a goal, but his efforts were worth one. His control was better and his running with the ball had Newcastle reeling on several occasions. He combined well with Di Michele too.
Di Michele. Well, where to start? He’s like a terrier which never gives up. There’s also a touch of the Di Canios about him. He controls the ball well and tackles as if his life depends on it. He took both his goals superbly and made the third for Etherington. What a debut, yet I still wouldn’t give him Man of the Match. That goes to Scott Parker.
I also like the look of Ilunga. He’s a tremendous athlete and very quick for a big guy. His passing was a little astray at times, but he’s better at going forward than McCartney was, and seems solid defensively too. Looks like a good buy.
Anyway, here are the scores on the doors…
Di Michele 9
Zola can be justifiably proud of himself. I cannot coneive of a performance like this under Alan Curbishley. On the evidence of his first game, Zola has put the flair back into West Ham. We can look forward with confidence, I think.