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Saturday, 25th August 2001

West Ham United 0
Leeds United 0

by Graeme Howlett

Glenn Roeder's Hammers picked up their first point of the 2001/02 season at the Boleyn this afternoon - but were left rueing missed opportunities that could have earned them all three.

Svetoslav Todorov, Paolo Di Canio and Nigel Winterburn all went close for the Hammers in the second period, although none managed to convert their opportunities into goals.

Joe Cole did hit the back of the net following a scramble involving Nigel Martyn and Svetoslav Todorov, although his 'goal' was inexplicably ruled out as the Bulgarian was adjudged to have fouled Martyn - although the referee was probably the only person inside Upton Park to spot the infringement.

It was business as usual today as the Boleyn - and it's brand new West side - got back to hosting Premiership football once again. For the first time over 7,000 fans sat inside the new West Stand development, which heralds a new chapter for the Hammers home - as does new boss Glenn Roeder who was in charge of his first home match today.

His team, although containing neither of his summer signings also looked vastly different in shape from predecessor Harry Redknapp's. Gone was the much maligned 5-3-2 formation employed by the former manager, replaced by a more traditional 4-4-2.

Many will have left the ground this evening wondering how the game finished up 0-0. As a rule goalless draws tend to be dull, boring affairs with few goalscoring opportunities - this was most certainly not your average 0-0.

And without the merest hint of bias (well maybe just a touch) Roeder can rightfully feel aggrieved at not taking all three points. Without doubt the better chances of the game fell to the Hammers, but a combination of poor finishing and good defending meant the visitors managed to snatch a point. Even Leeds manager David O'Leary described his side as 'fortunate' in a post-match interview.

A shaky start for the Hammers followed an impeccably honoured (inside the ground anyway) minutes silence for Les Sealey. The visitors were nearly gifted an early goal, but Mark Viduka's free header from 10 yards was directed over the bar.

The Hammers came back into the game and a wonderful 75 yard drilled pass from Di Canio sent Sinclair beyond the Leeds defence. Sinclair went for the spectacular volley - and missed in spectacular style.

Further flowing football from the Hammers ensued, and an unmarked Michael Carrick should have done better with a Sinclair cross which he nodded wide from 8 yards. One of the returning Rio Ferdinand's rare errors on the day.

Carrick attempted to attone for the error without delay; a quickly taken Di Canio free kick enabled the youngster to let fly from 20 yards - his shot was only just wide.

Then came the most audacious piece of play of the game; Carrick spotted Nigel Martyn off of his line and attempted to embarrass the England keeper Beckham style from the halfway line. Had his shot been a tad more accurate he could well have done.

The second half duly arrived, and with it the most controversial moment of the game. Joe Cole thought he had given the Hammers the lead when he tapped in a Martyn fumble. Paul Durkin saw it differently however, and awarded Leeds a free kick for a foul on the keeper by Todorov, who actually had his back turned on the keeper when he spilled the ball!

The Bulgarian was guilty a few moments later of missing a sitter; having turned the defender inside out he blasted over when one on one with Martyn. Maybe a sign of a lack of confidence from the young striker?

Jermain Defoe, who replaced Todorov to rapturous applause had little effect. Apart from two good strikes late on from Nigel Winterburn and Paolo Di Canio the visitors managed to hang on for a point reasonably comfortably.

Many will have been impressed by the work rate of Roeder's team today. They more than held their own (in all departments) against one of the Premiership's more physical teams - in stark contrast to the last time the two sides met toward the end of Redknapp's reign.

Player thoughts and ratings:

After a shaky start even Christian Dailly and Rigobert Song, two of the Hammers most criticised players of late put in solid performances that must have silenced many a critic. Song capped his fine game off with an 80 yard run in the second half - just a shame his final shot ended up half way down the North Circular.

To be fair, they had to be at their best as Shaka Hislop had an indifferent game - to say the least. He still, on occasions dallied over crosses, and to say his distribution was poor is an understatement.

Seb Schemmel and Nigel Winterburn both had excellent games at full-back; Schemmel, although clearly not the most talented player in the world worked his nuts off for 90 minutes. His only failing appears to be his crossing ability (or lack of); time after time he launched one too deep or too near the keeper.

Winterburn fully attoned for a poor display at Anfield last week with the sort of performance that earned him runner-up in last seasons Player of the Year award. He was almost rewarded with a goal in the final stages of the game but was denied by a good save from Nigel Martyn.

The flanks were patrolled well by Joe Cole and a fully recovered Trevor Sinclair, although Cole's best work came in the final 20 minutes when he was pushed inside a little. A sign perhaps that Roeder's attempt to convert the 19-year-old to a left-winger may prove tougher than first thought.

Sinclair moved up a gear after the break, and put in the sort of performance that must have left Sven-Goran Eriksson drooling.

In the middle Michael Carrick and John Moncur worked hard as a unit. Moncur didn't even get booked until the 44th minute today ...

Michael Carrick was a revelation. So assured for a 19-year-old, he looks more like Trevor Brooking on the ball as each day passes. Cool, calculated and accurate throughout - his attempted 60-yard chip in the first half was a sure sign of the confidence that is required to succeed at this level.

It would be nice if Carrick could pass some of this on to the unfortunate Svetoslav Todorov. The 21-year-old Bulgarian worked hard throughout, but sometimes seemed almost overawed by the players he was up against. He worked one really good chance in the second half today but couldn't find the target from 10 yards, skewing his shot wildly. One for the future still.

Which brings me neatly on to Paolo Di Canio. Many observers thought that his best days were behind him, but on this evidence that couldn't be further from the truth.

He ruined England's Danny Mills all afternoon, twisting and turning until the defender's only defence against the maestro's magnificence was to badmouth him. Mills will be happy that he doesn't come up against a Di Canio every week.

Biggest cheer of the day was saved for substitute Jermain Defoe, making his home Premiership debut. Restricted to just one chance though Glenn Roeder looks to have made the right decision in using him sparingly.

West Ham United: Hislop (6), Schemmel (7), Winterburn( 7), Song (7), Dailly (7), Moncur (7), Carrick (8), Cole (7), Sinclair (7), Di Canio (8), Todorov (6)

Subs: Bywater, Soma, McCann (Moncur 83), Courtois, Defoe (Todorov 69)

Leeds United: Martyn, Harte, Mills, Ferdinand, Matteo, Bowyer, Batty, Dacourt, Kewell, Keane, Viduka

Subs: Woodgate (Harte 79), Maybury (Dacourt 75), Milosevic, Kelly, McPhail

Goalscorers: none

Booked: Dailly, Todorov, Moncur, Matteo

Sent off: none

Attendance: 24,517

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