Thursday 14 December 2017

Anelka in salute backlash

West Ham 3 West Brom 3

Nicolas Anelka makes the controversial 'quenelle' gesture after scoring
Nicolas Anelka makes the controversial 'quenelle' gesture after scoring

Mark Bryans

Nicolas Anelka is surprised by claims that his goal celebration at West Ham yesterday was an anti-Semitic gesture, according to West Brom head coach Keith Downing.

The 34-year-old striker returned to the West Brom side for the first time in over two months and scored a brace in an entertaining Premier League game. Anelka seemingly performed the 'quenelle' salute, made famous by French comedian Dieudonne and linked to anti-Semitism in his homeland, but Downing said the striker was merely paying homage to his friend. The FA were last night said to be investigating the incident.

Anelka scored twice in five minutes at the end of the first half after Joe Cole had put West Ham ahead but it was his opening strike, his first West Brom goal, which led to the celebration. Downing said the 'quenelle' gesture was in no way linked to anything other than a dedication to Dieudonne, a personal friend, and said anything else being read in to the display was "absolute rubbish".

"I'm aware of it but it has got nothing to do what is being said," Downing replied when asked about the gesture. "It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well. He uses it in his act and I think speculation can be stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really. He is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around, he is totally surprised by it."

The caretaker manager was pleased with Anelka's display and is adamant the former Arsenal and Chelsea man is happy at the Hawthorns.

"I thought he had a good game," Downing added. "He combined with [Saido] Berahino really well. He has the quality to drop in and link the play and controls the game from that area. He got on the shoulder for his first goal and then a typical poacher's goal from the corner.

"It has been a while since he has played but his dedication and attitude has always been spot on. He is prepared to play and wants to play."

West Ham did not look like getting back in to the game until a manic four-minute spell in the second half yielded three goals. Half-time substitute Modibo Maiga drew the Hammers level with a curling finish before setting up Kevin Nolan two minutes later. Berahino was on hand to peg West Ham back once more as both sides had to settle for a point.

It means Sam Allardyce's side remain in the bottom three and the 59-year-old was left bemoaning his extensive injury list, which had James Tomkins' name added to it when the defender was forced off with a groin problem after 10 minutes.

"It was a remarkable performance from our players considering we had four full-backs playing across the back four today," said Allardyce. "Had we had a back-four fit, never mind all the other injuries, I think we would have won. Unfortunately, with players playing out of position we have conceded three goals."

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