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Everton 1
West Ham United 1

by Staff Writer

Paolo Di Canio has been called many things in his time. The man the opposition fans love to hate has been derided and abused the length and breadth of the country since joining West Ham nearly three years ago.

So with all this in mind I wonder what odds you would have received on the mercurial Italian leaving the field at Goodison Park yesterday to a standing ovation from the home fans following one of the most amazing acts of sportsmanship you are ever likely to witness on a football field?

It was the most unlikely of scenarios. Harry Redknapp, not usually stuck for a quote or two confessed to being bewildered by the whole thing, as were 30,000 Evertonians plus a thousand or so travelling Hammers fans, who watched Di Canio literally throw away a certain three points for the Hammers.

The scenario was thus. The game - a pretty dour affair - was balanced at one apiece. We had played two minutes of injury time, and referee Wilkes was just about ready to blow for full time.

West Ham set out on one last hopeful attack. Freddy Kanoute sprinted after a hopeful long ball sent down the right flank. Everton keeper Paul Gerrard matched the Frenchman for pace as he sprinted out of his goal to clear the danger.

As the two players clattered into each other the ball ran free, and Gerrard was left writhing in agony - he appeared to have twisted his knee upon making contact with the ball.

The ball fell loose, and Trevor Sinclair chipped it goalward towards Paolo Di Canio, who was standing unmarked in the penalty box with a clear view of an unguarded net ahead of him.

So we all know what happens here, right? Di Canio chests the ball down, and slots the ball in to the empty net to give the Hammers an unassailable 2-1 lead with virtually the last kick of the game.

Er ... no. To the amazement of everyone in the stadium Di Canio clocks the prone keeper, and instead catches the ball whilst signalling to the referee that Gerrard needs urgent assistance.

As it turned out Gerrard had to leave the field on a stretcher, so Di Canio's decision was certainly valid. His incredible gesture was certainly appreciated by the Everton players and fans alike, whom gave Di Canio a standing ovation as he left the field when the game was brought to a close just seconds later.

Harry Redknapp didn't know whether to laugh or cry after what he had witnessed. Dumbstruck was probably the best way to describe the Hammers boss who had seen Di Canio throw away a valuable two points, but more than win the day with a gesture that will certainly alter the opinion of many onlookers to our unpredictable genius.

The fact that it took until the 92nd minute to produce a really noteworthy event spoke volumes about another dull game. Everton probably had the lions share of possession, but it took until the 75th minute for them to turn that into a goal. Danny Cadamarteri flicked home Dave Watson's initial header from a corner to leave the Hammers facing a seventh successive defeat at Goodison.

But just as they had laid to rest the Elland Road and Dell jinxes in their last two away games, the Hammers went some way to doing the same here with an equaliser just seven minutes from time. Freddy Kanoute, inspirational yet again picked up a loose ball on the perimeter of the eighteen yard box, before turning and drilling home a low shot. It was no more than he had deserved for yet another impressive display.

New signing Titi Camara (news of whose imminent signing KUMB can once again proudly claim a world exclusive on) was watching his new teammates from the stands. He should sign on Monday for a figure in the region of 1.5m. The ex-Liverpool man should make a useful squad player, and at that price he has to be a bloody steal, when you consider that Millwall want in the region of 4-5m for Neil Harris, and Colchester stole 2m from Newcastle for Lumana Lua Lua (or is that 'Row Z? Lower, lower ...').

So a draw was perhaps a fair reflection on the afternoon's events -you'd certainly take it after being one down with eight minutes to play - but still you can't help feeling that Everton were there for the taking today, with the likes of big Duncan Ferguson, Francis Jeffers and Richard Gough all absent for one reason or another.

Following the Di Canio 'handball' issue one inventive journalist even had the nerve to suggest that the bookies might be sitting on a large bet for a 1-1 draw - perhaps placed by someone with a far-Eastern accent? However a swift call to William Hill's call centre in Leeds proved that nothing untoward had taken place, so all you conspiracy theorists out there can rest easy!

Match Facts

West Ham United: Hislop, Winterburn, I Pearce, S Pearce, Song, Sinclair, Lomas, Carrick, Lampard, Di Canio, Kanoute

Subs: Bywater, Potts, Tihinen, Diawara, Suker

Everton: Gerrard, S Watson, Weir, Naysmith, Hughes, Ball, Pembridge, Gravesen, Gemmill, Cadamarteri, Campbell

Subs: Unsworth, Alexandersson, Simonsen, Moore, Tal

Goals: Cadamarteri (75), Kanoute (83)

Booked: Kanoute, Lomas

Referee: C.Wilkes

Attendance: 31,260

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Match Report