Pards: We Can Pull Off Italian Job

Palermo might well have touched down back home in Sicily in the early hours of this morning, with a 1-0 victory and that vital away goal in the bag.

But Alan Pardew insists that Hammers can still head to the Stadio Renzo Barbera in a fortnight's time, full of hope.

"On a performance level, in terms of two fighters in the ring, I thought that we were pretty evenly matched and the second leg will be an interesting, psychological game," he observed last night, after seeing Andrea Caracciolo's 45th-minute strike give the Italians their UEFA Cup first round, first leg advantage. "With that 1-0 lead it will be interesting to see just how they approach the tie at their place.

"We know what we're going to do, though - we'll be taking the game straight to them!

[quote]"If they use similar tactics to tonight then that will not present us with a problem and if they open up that'll suit us too. With one or two breaks out there, it could be a very different result indeed."[/quote]

Certainly, with Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano putting in impressive performances on their first starts for the club, and with substitute Marlon Harewood splintering a post late-on, the black and pink shirted Rosanero know that West Ham are not saying arrivederci to the UEFA Cup just yet.

"I feel a bit hard done by," confessed Pards. "Although, Palermo's organisation and ability to press the ball was always going to make it difficult for us, I thought that we played well under pressure.

"The performance level was high from both sides but things just didn't go our way and we even stopped, momentarily, for their goal because we thought that the ball had gone out of play.

"It would be so easy to say that we got caught out, but I honestly believe we could've got something out of tonight's game with a couple of breaks.

"And without making excuses, I was unhappy with the referee during the opening stages, too, because some of the Italian tackling should've been punished with more yellow cards.

"That would've put one or two of their players under serious wraps for the rest of the game and although neither side came out of that late, heated pushing and shoving match with any credit, that whole incident was a build-up of events that had gone on earlier.

"Palermo were no more physical than I had anticipated but I honestly expected the referee to be stronger.

"Fortunately, neither Carlos Tevez nor Javier Mascherano find that physical side of the game a problem and I was very pleased with their performances.

"Both Marlon Harewood and Hayden Mullins were obviously disappointed that they were on the bench because they wanted to play," revealed Pards after opting to blood his Argentinian amigos on the European stage. "After all, they've been a big part of the success of this football club but competition is hot in this team right now. Matthew Etherington wasn't too pleased to miss out either, while Teddy Sheringham didn't get to come on at all. That's what happens when you've got a big squad and are trying to win trophies.

"But Mascherano's delivery of pass raised us a level," enthused the clearly impressed Hammers' boss. "Javier had the bit between his teeth after the break, he raised the tempo and put in an accomplished display, while Tevez again showed that he has special talent and we just need to harness that.

"I started playing Carlos in that withdrawn role on the left because, tactically, we didn't want to concede a goal in the opening period of our first UEFA Cup tie but, after that, we moved him forward and tried to hurt Palermo.

"Tevez produced a great moment to force a magnificent save in the first half, while Marlon then came on and hit the post. That just goes to show how tight the match was in the end.

"I was very pleased that Upton Park sold out tonight - that was an outstanding effort by our fans - and we're just so disappointed that we haven't come out of the game with anything for them," concluded Pards looking ahead to the upcoming Italian job in a fortnight's time. "But at least we did enough to suggest that, even though we lost, Palermo will still be in some fear of us.

"As far as I'm concerned, this tie is still very evenly poised."