West Ham: Tottenham Hotspur grabbed an unlikely victory at Upton Park this afternoon, defeating a dogged West Ham side 2-1 to return to the top of the English Premier League.
Carlton Cole had given the Hammers the lead, but strikes from Jermaine Defoe and Aaron Lennon reversed the result and give manager Harry Redknapp an ideal tonic on the return to his old club.
The first half saw both sides play in the true spirit of a London derby encounter, battling with immense energy and gusto, and with bite in the challenges, with the home support reacting with fervour to every lunge or tackle that regained possession.
However, in an attacking sense, both sides found the killer pass to be elusive, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto particularly guilty of finding himself in good positions but unable to pick out a teammate in the area.
Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone also lashed in a series of long-range efforts for the visitors, but often did so when there was perhaps a colleague better placed to threaten the goal.
Spurs came closest in the first 45 minutes through Ledley King, who leapt to meet a Modric delivery and the ball ricocheted off of his back and looped up onto the crossbar.
At the other end, Carlton Cole was making a nuisance of himself up against King and last week’s goal hero, Sebastian Bassong, but the striker’s lack of a predatory instinct is well-documented, and was on display on a few occasions here.
Firstly he could only strike straight at the legs of Spurs’ stopper Carlo Cudicini, then moments later after excellent work from Junior Stanislas, did not show the necessary desire to meet the youngsters long cross and the ball drifted harmlessly out of play.
However, for all those criticisms, in the second period we saw a microcosm for the good and the bad of Cole, in the space of five bizarre minutes.
In front of the England coach, Fabio Capello, Cole deftly flicked the ball up on the edge of the area and unleashed an unstoppable volley into Cudicini’s top left-hand corner that left the Italian with absolutely no chance. It was a stunning goal that lit up the contest, and displayed the limitless ability of the former Chelsea forward.
However, he undid all of his good work with a moment of madness on 54 minutes.
Picking up possession in the middle of the pitch, he contrived to pass the ball in between his centre halves, straight to the feet of the in-form Jermaine Defoe, who ruthlessly despatched the ball into the net and drew the sides’ level. It was an inexplicable error, and one that Cole himself could not quite bring himself to believe.
West Ham continued to press to regain their lead despite that mishap, and Jimenez almost managed to burst his way into the area but was eventually crowded out, before Jimenez again strode into the area, but went down far too easily and Referee Mark Clattenburg waved away his protests.
West Ham looked the more likely, but as is always the way in football, the sucker punch arrived ten minutes from time thanks to the boot of Aaron Lennon.
The quicksilver winger capitalised on a slip by Jonathan Spector to cut inside and produce a stunning drive that whistled into the despairing Robert Green’s top corner to give Spurs the lead, one that on the balance of play they barely deserved.
Gianfranco Zola was bemused, and fuming, but Spurs managed to see out the final minutes to clinch win number three and maintain their 100% start to the season. Is this the dawning of a new era at White Hart Lane?