Filed: Tuesday, 5th May 1998
By: Matthew O'Greel
The Hammers' European hopes were rescued by a last ditch equaliser from supersub Manny Omoyinmi at Selhurst Park in a scintillating Premiership contest last night. West Ham had to come back from 3-1 down to scrape the point which leaves us with a faint hope of qualifying for the UEFA Cup next season.
It took the Hammers only 4 minutes to take the lead in what was to be a pulsating London derby. Eyal Berkovic played a sublime through ball to Frank Lampard, but as Lampard went to pull the trigger he was challenged by Palace midfielder Sasa Curcic.The ball eventually trickled in past Kevin Miller, Lampard claimed the goal but it looked as though Curcic got the final touch, although after viewing the video evidence it was indeed Lampard who got the final touch..West Ham were in total control at that stage, and should have increased the lead missing several gilt edged opportunities. Samassi Abou was guilty of missing a good chance to score, and Eyal Berkovic saw his goal bound shot deflected wide.
If things weren't going bad enough for Palace, they were hit by an injury to centre half Ismael, who was replaced by Jamie Smith. But just as it looked like the visitors were set to take the lead they deserved into the break, Palace's 19 year old striker Marcus Bent struck a superb equaliser, lobbing the stranded Bernard Lama from the edge of the box despite being surrounded by several other players. For the umpteenth time this season the Hammers had surrendered a promising lead away from home.
Palace came out fired up for the second half, and certainly looked anything but a side bottom of the table and already doomed to relegation. They took the lead just two minutes after the break through Simon Rodger.The midfielder's volley from the edge of the area deflected home past Bernard Lama and a sea of defenders.
West Ham then changed things around, with Harry Redknapp bringing on Omoyimni for the disappointing Sammy Abou.But it looked as though all three points were heading to Palace when Lombardo made it 3-1 on 63 minutes, collecting Dean Gordon's pass, rounding the keeper and sliding the ball under Lama from a tight angle.
The Hammers fought back straight away though to make it 3-2, sub Manny Omoyimni bending in a shot from the edge of the box, his first goal in senior football. Both teams then went close to adding to the scoreline; for Palace Lombardo saw his 30 yard effort saved well, and for the visitors Lampard's shot crashed against the bar and Kitson saw his header disallowed for an offside against David Unsworth.It definitely looked curtains for West Ham when Unsworth was sent off two minutes from the end for his second bookable offence, a foul on Lombardo on the half way line. But cue supersub Manny Omoyimni.The 20 year old grabbed his second and West Ham's third on 90 minutes, turning in the area from six yards out to beat Miller, and keep West Ham's European dreams alive.
So with one game left this season, we can finish as high as sixth, or as low as eleventh, depending on what happens on Sunday. For us to automatically qualify for the UEFA Cup Blackburn need to lose at home to Newcastle, Arsenal to hold Villa to at least a draw, and us to beat Leicester. With the possibility of seventh being enough to qualify (should Chelsea beat Stuttgart next week in the Cup Winners Cup) this would seem the more likely target. Whatever, it is now out of our hands, a situation we shouldn't really be in. Had we only taken our chances against Man. Utd / Derby / Bolton etc. we would already be there. As it stands a nerve wracking afternoon beckons this weekend - but at least at the right end of the table for a change.
Goalscorers : Lampard 4, Bent 44, Rodger 48, Lombardo 63, Omoyimni 68,89
Hammers : Lama, Unsworth, Sinclair, Kitson, Lomas, Lazaridis, Lampard, Pearce, Impey, Abou (Omoyinmi), Berkovic Subs not used : Forrest, Mean, Berthe, Coyne
Crystal Palace: Miller, Edworthy, Gordon, Curcic, Lombardo, Warhurst, Shipperley, Rodger, Bent, Ismael, Hreidarsson Subs : Nash, Smith, McKenzie, Fullerton, Folan
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