Filed: Saturday, 1st September 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham produced one of their best performances in recent seasons as they put London rivals Fulham to the sword with comparative ease at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.
Sam Allardyce's side, boosted by the inclusion of new signing Andy Carroll took less than a minute to break down the Cottagers' defence and that goal - expertly dispatched by captain Kevin Nolan - set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Having been well beaten at Swansea last week this game was a test of the team's resilience - and it was one that they passed with flying colours, scoring three and creating a hatful of chances in a game that was mostly one-sided until the closing stages.
Carroll - whose inclusion created a tangible buzz around the stadium ahead of kick-off- was heavily involved in two of United's three goals. And he had an instant effect, with his first touch in a claret and blue shirt leading to the opening goal.
It was his header - beating Fulham's Brede Hangeland for the first of several occasions on the day - that found Ricardo Vaz Te, which the Portuguese forward turned back inside for Nolan to fire expertly across the body of Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with less than 60 seconds on the clock.
Sam Allardyce has often stressed the importance of set pieces so it was therefore no surprise when West Ham's second goal came from such a move.
Matt Taylor, only playing due to the enforced absence of new signing Matt Jarvis - who was ruled out with a thigh injury ahead of kick-off - delivered a hanging corner which Winston Reid latched on to and planted firmly beyond Schwarzer, who was a spectator as the ball flew past him.
And the first half rout was completed four minutes ahead of the break when Mark Noble's free kick from the halfway line was delivered towards Carroll on the edge of the penalty box. The 6'3" striker leapt salmon-like to beat three defenders to the ball, nodding it down for Taylor who fired home with a textbook strike.
The visitors, clearly shell-shocked by West Ham's stunning first half display sought to make amends by introducing their new star signing for the second half. But Dimitar Berbatov, signed ahead of the transfer deadline from Manchester United failed to make any sort of impact despite producing some neat touches and one or two fancy flicks.
Clearly feeling the loss of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey who moved to Tottenham in the week, Fulham were never really at the races despite staging a late rally with West Ham content to sit back and protect their comfortable three-goal lead.
Jussi Jaaskelainen, who received a deluge of criticism following his error at Swansea last week atoned for that error with a confident display and was more than a match for anything the visitors threw at them - even though he had to call upon the aid of his left-hand post to prevent Hugo Rodallega from grabbing a late consolation.
The only sour note of the day came 23 minutes from full time with the enforced withdrawal of new boy Carroll who felt his hamstring after jumping to head a ball with his marker Hangeland in close proximity.
His prompt removal - which will rule him out of the forthcoming England fixture - drew a huge round of applause from an appreciative Boleyn faithful who had been thoroughly encouraged by an excellent debut performance.
Sam Allardyce, who sang Carroll's praises post-match will no doubt be hoping he has the striker available again for when West Ham resume their Premier League programme against Norwich City at Carrow Road in a fortnight's time.
THAT'S PONY: A member of the West Lower's security team sports a Carroll-esque hair-do
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