Friday 24 February 2017

Jubilant Grant has faith justified

West Ham 1 Tottenham 0

Frank Malley

Avram Grant's excellent week ended in bouquets after West Ham defeated their detested enemy with an exhilarating performance.

"That was a good three points -- against a very, very good team -- and I'm happy," the Israeli said. "We've become stronger and stronger, and the only way to show this is on the pitch."

After the draw at Stoke City and heartening Carling Cup win at Sunderland, this first three points of the season came courtesy of a slick and feisty effort from a side who suddenly appear to have gelled. Before kick-off West Ham's goals-for column had read a paltry three. It may have been improved by only one but Frederic Piquionne's winner finally gave lift-off to Grant's project.

As the half hour approached the celebrations began. Kieron Dyer had already indicated why he was surprised to discover he would not be starting against Stoke last week with some darting runs at Gareth Bale, who had slotted in for the rested left-back, Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

For Piquionne's goal Dyer's contribution was a burst down the opposing flank and a corner was conceded. Mark Noble drifted in the delivery, and the striker out-jumped Vedran Corluka to score with a header that corkscrewed beyond Carlo Cudicini.

The goal exposed the hole left by Harry Redknapp's stricken centre-backs. Michael Dawson is a long-term casualty; Ledley King's knee was judged not worth chancing with FC Twente in town this week; and injury to William Gallas on Friday ruled the Frenchman out.

"He looked like he tore a muscle in the groin area," said Redknapp, who remained in jocular form despite the defeat. "It's the first time I've been beaten as a manager by the Super-Hammers."

After the goal Spurs were no longer casually building from deep, via the magic of Rafael van der Vaart. Instead, they had to douse fires.

Before the break, the most threatening of these came from a Scott Parker run that resulted in another West Ham corner. Again, Mark Noble and Dyer caused the problems following the delivery, and Victor Obinna worried Cudicini with a rasping shot.

In Van der Vaart, the £8m bargain of the season, he had a player who was dominating before Spurs conceded. Twice he floated into the channel in front of the defence to unload 25-yard shots that drew Robert Green into action.

For Green, gaffes had been replaced with an afternoon he may view as the moment the spectre of a torrid World Cup was finally shaken off. Luka Modric forced the 'keeper to into his stand-out save of the game.

At the finish he offered a defiant gesture to the press box. Grant added: "This is the life of a sportsman. I think Rob's performance today was the best speech."

And his team's.

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