Fulham welcomed West Ham to Craven Cottage on Saturday, with the Hammers desperate for three points in their quest for Premier League safety. Fulham’s season has been threatening to fizzle out following three successive defeats for the Whites – denting their European hopes. West Ham ran out 3-1 winners at the London Stadium when the sides met earlier in the season.
FUL: Leno; Cedric, Tosin, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed; De-Cordova Reid, Pereira, Willian; Vinicius
WHU: Fabianski; Coufal, Zouma, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice, Fornals; Bowen, Antonio, Ings
An even first 10 minutes saw both sides look to break with pace – Bowen forcing a corner following a slip from Ream. The subsequent corner was powerfully headed away by Tosin. Andreas Pereira found himself in space on the edge of the box before firing a shot goalwards – a deflection had Fabianski scrambling but the ball sailed wide of the West Ham goal.
West Ham opened the scoring in the 22nd minute through a Harrison Reed own goal. A cross from Coufal was met by Tim Ream but he could only divert it to Bowen. The diminutive winger danced past Ream to the by-line and drove a ball across the 6 yard box which inadvertently hit Reed before creeping past Leno into the bottom corner. Fulham responded with patient build-up play, but were unable to test the West Ham back four – Declan Rice doing well to snuff out attacks and set The Hammers on the counterattack.
The absence of Aleksandr Mitrovic following the commencement of an 8 match ban was telling as Fulham struggled to test the West Ham defence. The home side continued to dominate possession in the first half – but swift interplay failed to result in any notable chances. A clear pattern of play had emerged following West Ham’s opener with Fulham looking to hit back before the interval. A 38th minute strike from Robinson was the closest Fulham came in the first half as the American’s powerful drive whistled narrowly over the bar.
Positive half time introductions of Tom Cairney and Manor Solomon for Harrison Reed and Bobby De-Cordova Reid respectively outlined Fulham’s ambitions for the second half. Pereira had The White’s first shot on target in the 47th minute albeit it a routine stop for Fabianski. West Ham continued to defend resolutely but were restricted to minimal possession in the Fulham half.
The East London side squandered a golden chance in the 54th minute – Ings was slid through by Bowen, but a brave save from Leno denied the Hammers striker as he looked to lift the ball over the German stopper. That was Ings’ last contribution as he was replaced by Algerian Said Benrahma – Fornals also made way for Flynn Downes. West Ham fans made their opinions on the changes heard with chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing,’ targeted at under-fire manager David Moyes.
Fulham continued to boss possession but looked toothless in front of goal. A floated cross from substitute Kenny Tete was partially cleared by Zouma but Cairney could only direct his follow-up header over the bar. Manor Solomon has been a bright spark for Fulham since his return from injury – the Israeli winger looked to drive through the West Ham defence, going down under a challenge. Referee Jarred Gillet waving penalty protests away.
The best chance of the match for Fulham came in the 82nd minute as Vinicius slipped a delicate ball through for the onrushing Pereira who looked to take the ball past Fabianski. The imposing Polish keeper did fantastically well to get fingertips to the ball – denying the Brazilian an equaliser. West Ham consistently threatened on the counterattack – a square ball from Benrahma following a turnover of possession gave Bowen the chance to wrap up the points in the 88th minute but his low drive was straight at Leno. A 4 minute stoppage period was seen out well by the away side who had further chances to win the game through Cornet and Benrahma.
A crucial victory for West Ham sees The Hammers move up to 13th in the table – edging away from the drop zone. Fulham’s slump continues as their losing run stretches to 5 games. An excellent first season back in England’s topflight looks to be petering out as they remain firmly in mid table.