Saturday, 1st September 2012
The Hammers starting line-up needed a re-shuffle with Joey O’Brien replacing injured George McCartney at left-back and Matt Taylor playing on the left-side of midfield, with manager Sam Allardyce not risking winger Matt Jarvis after a slight muscle strain.
New recruit Andy Carroll was thrust straight into the team in place of Carlton Cole whilst James Tomkins also dropped to the bench as Ricardo Vaz Te returned to the starting line-up, with Kevin Nolan switching to his more familiar central role.
It didn’t take long for West Ham to find some fluidity in their passing though, and after just 53 seconds they took the lead. Andy Carroll showing his aerial dominance, cushioned the ball into the path of the very lively Vaz Te who picked out scorer Kevin Nolan in the middle – the captain striking a sweet volley past Mark Schwarzer into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Whilst Fulham dominated possession, much like Villa on the opening day of the season, it was a confident West Ham team carving out all the chances and could’ve added to their goals tally soon after, with Vaz Te going close at the near post. Mohamed Diame also came a whisker away from scoring, striking the crossbar after another intelligent knockdown from Andy Carroll, the latter already thriving as the focal point of attack at his new club.
Set-piece goals proved a trademark of West Ham’s successful season in the Championship last year and it was through another that the Hammers increased their lead on this afternoon, centre-back Winston Reid powering in a header from a Matt Taylor corner.
More joy for the home fans was to follow before the half-time whistle with Taylor turning goalscorer, volleying in from the edge of the area after a poor clearance from Brede Hangeland under pressure again from new boy Carroll.
For a very lacklustre Fulham side it was probably game over already. Missing the flair of Bryan Ruiz and Sidwell and Diarra getting overrun in the middle, Jol had little option but to throw on new signing Dimitar Berbatov for the 2nd half to rescue an unlikely result.
But the writing was already on the wall and the Cottagers offered very little in the 2nd half to suggest a comeback was ever on the cards. As West Ham coasted to a comfortable victory, it was only in the final 10 mins that Fulham started working Jussi Jaaskelainen in goal, the goalkeeper saving well from Damien Duff and also pushing a smart Hugo Rodallega shot onto the post.
Back to front West Ham’s players were really on the top of their game here.
After the mistake against Swansea Jussi looked sharp between the sticks whilst the back four were very solid despite some nervy moments for Joey O’Brien in the first half.
In attack Ricardo Vaz Te was a menace to the Fulham defence with countless mazy runs and Andy Carroll showed immediately why Sam Allardyce was so desperate to bring him to the club, proving a handful for Fulham’s towering centre-back Hangeland and his physical presence and aerial prowess key to bringing teammates into play all afternoon.
It was West Ham’s figures in the centre of the park who were the real stars of the show though. Mohamed Diame was a true powerhouse in midfield, closing down space and making rampaging runs into the opposition half, bringing back fond memories of a certain Scott Parker.
He had a brilliant partner in Mark Noble though. The club’s longest serving player producing the type of top drawer performance West Ham fans know he’s capable of but would hope he could replicate on a more consistent basis. Both midfielders stamped their authority on the game from start to finish, whilst Nolan provided a constant threat on goal when he found space around the edge of the box.
If there was any disappointment for West Ham, it was the injuries which forced off the trio of James Collins, Andy Carroll and Guy Demel in the 2nd half. Carroll’s hamstring strain would’ve been the main concern, unusually suffering the injury as he jumped for a high ball, but hopefully his withdrawal was more a precautionary measure and the forward will be back in contention for the Hammers against Norwich when the international break is over.
They were minor frustrations though on an otherwise supremely positive afternoon as West Ham claimed, not just 3 important points but produced a performance of true merit as the club seek to turn Upton Park back into the fortress it once was.
There was already a buzz around the ground today pre kick-off surrounding the exciting new acquisitions and that buzz shows no signs of abating as the East End outfit appear determined to really make a statement in the Premier League this season.
Stuart Jones may also be found on his blog at www.westhamfans.co.uk.
*Player ratings below by Graeme Howlett.
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After his aberration at Swansea last weekend it was good to see Jussi as solid as he has been for Bolton over the years. Little to do until the end including a very impressive double save.
Concentrated more on his defensive duties than when playing here against Villa a fortnight ago but Fulham got no change from him whatsoever.
Joey O Brien
Pressed into service on the left due to The versatile Irishman did a fine job deputising for the injured George McCartney at left back - even though he was targetted early doors by Duff & co.
Back to being Mr No Nonsense. Only troubled once Berbatov entered the fray in the second half, but there won't be many centre halves over the years who haven't been.
An absolutely exceptional performance from the Kiwi. A goal just about gave him the edge over the competition in the Man of the Match stakes.
The competition for places seems to have stirred Mark into action more than anyone else and he has been West Ham's most consistent player over the first three league games. He was everywhere today; winning possession, making crucial tackles and spraying the ball all over the park.
One of those players who receives little credit to whom a team can become indebted. The Senegalese international takes no prisoners and his input was vital today to stop Fulham's marauding attacks.
Captain Kev was no doubt pleased as punch to see his old pal Andy Carroll in claret and blue - and it didn't take long for them to hit it off on the field. About 55 seconds, if my watch was right.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Quiet in recent weeks, Vaz reacted to losing his place last week in the best possible way. He tormented Fulham throughout the game and some of his wide play was a joy to behold today.
The best thing you can say about his performance today is that we didn't miss our new £11million signing, his namesake Mr Jarvis. His goal was brilliantly taken, hit into the ground exactly as the 'textbooks' will tell you.
As debuts go, this one takes some beating. Based on this performance, quite what Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool were thinking when they let him go on loan one can only guess. Ironically perhaps this was the first time he's looked anything like a £35million striker since leaving Newcastle.
(Replaced Collins, 67)
Still feeling his way back into the side having missed a fair chunk of pre-season due to the Olympic Games. Solid if unspectacular - as a centre-half should be, really.
(Replaced Carroll, 68)
A caase of 'how do you follow that'? Hangeland was delighted when Cole came on for Carroll, for one.
(Replaced Demel, 78)
One chance to score on what was his Premier League debut but he was quickly closed down. Nice to see another Academy product make his debut. Big things have been expected of Rob for a few years, it's time to see if he can deliver.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Gary O Neil
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Winston Reid.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Joey O Brien, James Collins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Taylor, Andy Carroll.
Goals: Kevin Nolan 1 Winston Reid 29 Matt Taylor 41 .
Sent off: None.
Mark Schwarzer, Sascha Riether, Aaron Hughes, Brede Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Mahamadou Diarra, Kieran Richardson, Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric.
Substitutes: Dimitar Berbatov (Mladen Petric 46), Alex Kacaniklic (Kieran Richardson 59).
Subs not used: David Stockdale, Stephen Kelly, Chris Baird, Pajtim Kasami, Matthew Briggs.
Sent Off: None.