Paolo Di Canio scores in his last home game for West Ham | May 4, 2003
SIMPLY THE VEST: Di Canio back to seize lifeline
PAOLO DI CANIO made a triumphant return to his beloved Upton Park yesterday, scoring the only goal of a tense London derby to give West Ham victory over Chelsea, writes Jim Munro.
The Hammers are still in the Premiership relegation zone on goal difference, but are level on 41 points with Bolton, who drew 0-0 at Southampton in the evening game, and financially-troubled Leeds United, who face a daunting trip to champions Arsenal this afternoon.
It was the ultimate scene for the Italian gladiator. Returning from exile, having fallen out with the club’s management, Di Canio came on as a second-half substitute to hit West Ham’s winning goal from close range. A tearful celebration followed as, out of contract at the end of the season, it may have been his last home game for the club.
For Leeds, relegation to the First Division is unthinkable, but their game at Arsenal has assumed huge importance at both extremities of the Premiership table.
Arsenal have to beat Leeds if they are to stand any chance of catching Manchester United, after Ruud van Nistelrooy — 43 goals in all competitions this season — plundered a hat-trick against a listless Charlton in a 4-1 win at Old Trafford.
United lead Arsenal by eight points and, regardless of what the Gunners achieve today and at home to Southampton on Wednesday, can secure their eighth Premiership title in 11 seasons with victory at Everton next Sunday.
Everton may need to win that game to qualify for a Uefa Cup place. Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Birmingham clinched the third Champions League spot. The fourth will be fought out at Stamford Bridge on the last day, when Chelsea entertain Liverpool, a match the visitors must win.