Premier League
West Ham United 3 Fulham 1

Friday, 22nd February 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

Three goals and twelve corners told some of the story today as West Ham brushed Fulham aside for three easy points at home and a 3-1 win.

In the widely anticipated return of Havard Nordtveit, a poor start did little to stop West Ham cruising to an easy win in a game memorable more for the return of Manuel Lanzini than the four goals.

Coming from behind, Pellegrini's men could thank a hand and some poor refereeing for their opening back into the game, but even with that luck, Fulham were too awful to even complain about the injustice.

West Ham made one change as struggling Fulham revisited, Manuel Pellegrini showing no sentimental turn as Ryan Fredericks was replaced by Pablo Zabaleta.

It's been a month since the Argentine stalwart played for West Ham, and it showed as he gifted Fulham the chance for a perfect start. 40 seconds into the game, Zabaleta turned to play a back pass to Fabianski, but instead fed Ryan Babel.

The Dutchman with the ludicrously red head stepped into the box, but delayed and waited for Fabianski to go down. The Pole didn't and when Babel finally shot, Fabianski stayed big to block what should have been an opening goal.

But rather than shocking the home side into life, it rather shook them. They were second to every ball, and were punished only moments later.

Seri, who played excellently for most of the opening 45 minutes, burst away first from Rice and then from a nominally chasing Mark Noble. Pushing down the left unopposed, he slid the ball to Sessegnon, who fired in a first time cross that powered across the face of goal. It was the man who needed to make amends that found the ball at his feet. 3 yards out, who flicked it past Fabianski and put Fulham into a 1-0 lead.

West Ham were not awake, and could barely keep hold of the ball before a break forward after six minutes. Hernandez drove a cross-shot poorly at Fulham defenders, but it was notable for the start of West Ham's corner bombardment. They had nine in the first half, and Diop getting a head to the ball, although just wide, was a sign of West Ham's route back into the game.

In reality, nothing really happened for the next 20 minutes of the game. Seri was getting ahead of Noble and Snodgrass to balls in the middle, but slowly West Ham started to take control of possession, even if they did nothing with it.

But that control gave them a chance to put Fulham under pressure, forcing more corners to be conceded. On 29 minutes, it paid dividends. Snodgrass, who had put in multiple looping corners that bent in to Fulham goalkeeper Rico, but this time he dealt with it abysmally.

A weak punch into the air dropped around eight yards out. Antonio headed it back towards goal, Ogbonna flicked it past Rico, but the ball was heading wide until Hernandez, a yard out, forced it over the line. The Mexican wheelend away with Fulham protesting handball.

And they were right to be aggrieved, with replays showing that Hernandez clearly paddled the ball into the back of the net. For once, West Ham had benefited from short-sighted officials at the London Stadium. Hernandez cared little, and his 50th Premier League goal got West Ham back into a game where they had created nothing.

Fulham, it became very obvious, could not defend corners. They have also let in two or more goals in all but six of their league games this season. It was not a recipe to success as West Ham played wide often and won corner after corner.

Frankly, Pellegrini's side did little else. But they didn't need to, Fulham were offering nothing and handed West Ham the lead not long before half time.

It was another corner, another which Snodgrass bent towards goal. This time it was flatter, and the Fulham defence stood like statues as Issa Diop attacked the cross and headed in from four yards out. He was unopposed and it was all too easy.

As the first half came to a close, West Ham had been poor creatively, but also in control. Another corner was nearly converted as Michail Antonio had a diving header stopped at the front post. There could have been a penalty seconds before, Sergio Rico throwing Hernandez to the ground as the corner came in.

A somewhat dull first half ended with West Ham having played well over 100 passes more than Fulham and that control of the ball being what was allowing them to press forward and force corners. Two set pieces enough to put a positive spin on an otherwise forgettable half of football.

As the second half restarted, little changed.

Drab doesn't really cover it. Fulham have only won twice this year when they've led 1-0, an appalling record, yet not surprising watching this. They offered nothing in the second half, when they should instead be scrapping for their lives.

West Ham did little for most of it too, but the home side were leading. Whilst you always know 2-1 means a moment can turn the game on its head, Fulham were possibly the least dangerous opposition to ever chase a deficit away to West Ham in the London Stadium. Fulham are bad: Ranieri, Babel and Nordtveit were not going to be the answer.

This was what fans could ponder as a Friday night as tame as wine and a cheese board was slowly frittering away in East London. Arnautovic came on for the poor but handy Hernandez. Ogbonna and Fredericks made good interventions when Fulham threatened to threaten, but otherwise the game was already being forgotten before the return of Manuel Lanzini woke up the West Ham fans.

He combined consistently with Arnautovic and Snodgrass to find space in and around the Fulham area. A breakaway with that pair showed the understanding between the stroppy Austrian and the popular Argentine is still working, combining well to burst up the pitch.

Driving forward, they fed Snodgrass, who cuts back to Lanzini in the area. He could shoot, but delays and instead drops it back off to Snodgrass, whose cross to the back post again finds Arnautovic, whose header is well saved when he should score.

Lanzini again delayed a shot when in a good position from combinations with Arnautovic, before minutes later Noble played a lovely pass to free Arnautovic in the box. His powerful effort was flicked onto the bar by good reaction save by Rico.

West Ham were beginning to show they could punish ulham for offering nothing, and eventually they secured all three points.

With 90 minutes on the clock, one final counter attack won the game.

Antonio took control, driving forward with Lanzini, Arnautovic and Snodgrass. Pushing on towards goal, he slid the ball to Arnautovic, who delayed his pass in the box to see everyone move at goal and leave Lanzini spare on the edge. His shot was blocked by a despairing dive from a chasing Chambers, but it bounced back to the right for Arnautovic.

Calm as ever, he drove to the byline, cut back and looked up to see Antonio with a little space. His floated cross drifted onto Antonio's head, no Fulham defender on their toes to push out, and the wide man heads it down and past Rico in the goal. Whilst the power wasn't great, the placement was perfect. Hitting the inside of the post, unstoppable for 3-1 and all three points on 90 mins.

It put a nice end to a reasonably dull game, even with four goals.12 corners to Fulham's zero, West Ham again took points off the strugglers in the league.

And with four of the bottom five yet to come at home (although four of the top six away from home) there should be points to be taken as the season goes on.

The three points were deserved though. Pellegrini's side controlled the game without really having to force it, keeping the ball well and nullifying any threat Fulham meekly tried to muster up.

With Lanzini returning, Arnautovic looking sharper than he has in weeks, Antonio in form and Nasri back on the bench too, the last few weeks of the season at least look like they could be lively.

They've got to be more lively than this.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Made some saves, especially the excellent stop from Babel. Nothing he can do for the goal.


Pablo Zabaleta
Rusty at the start, worked hard but exposed for the goal as well as his backpass.


Aaron Cresswell
On the plus side, his blocked crosses kept winning corners. He delivered maybe two good ones, but only finding a West Ham played once in six crosses is poor. Sees a lot of the ball though, second most touches, and always combining on the flank.


Issa Diop
Well taken goal, kind of dominance he needs to show attacking corners. Defended well, gave nothing beyond the goal and Mitrovic didn’t bully him.


Angelo Ogbonna
Fought and dominated physically. Seems to like strikers like Mitrovic. Good performance and never looked like conceding in the second half when Fulham were desperate to get something.


Declan Rice
6 tackles, 3 interceptions, again showing why Pellegrini (and all West Ham fans) calls him the best English holding midfielder. Although a little slow to start, he imposed himself as time went on.


Mark Noble
Struggled with Seri to begin with, but helped West Ham dominate the ball and used it well. Is getting through more work up and down the pitch now, rather than side to side, which can see him chasing laboriously after players.


Felipe Anderson
Ineffective, which is probably why the team looked more functional than exciting. One to forget.


Robert Snodgrass
Worked his socks off, took 12 corners, two leading to goals, a few more chances and then should have been rewarded with an assist when Arnautovic missed his header.


Michail Antonio
Threatened out wide and in the box, is getting into central positions at times that are making things easier for the lone forward. Still less than elegant, but more and more effective. Good goal, well deserved.


Javier Hernandez
Drew some fouls, but really did nothing but score. However, the equaliser turned possession into real control, as Fulham were rocked whilst we were buoyed. Clearly handball, clearly some intent, but doubt he’ll care.



Substitutes

Ryan Fredericks
(Replaced Zabaleta) One excellent intervention when Mitrovic got the wrong side of the defence. Otherwise, was neither good nor bad.


Marko Arnautovic
(Replaced Hernandez) Was more dangerous in play than Hernandez, could have had two goals and got a good assist. Movement was good and really came alive when Lanzini came on.


Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Anderson) Great to see him back and he slotted in seamlessly. Rusty, a fit and firing Lanzini probably would have at least tested the goalkeeper when he had openings, but showed a glimpse of why we’re excited to have him back.


Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Did not play.


Pedro Obiang
Did not play.


Samir Nasri
Did not play.


Andy Carroll
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Pablo Zabaleta, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio, Javier Hernandez.

Goals: Javier Hernandez 29 Issa Diop 40 Michail Antonio 90              .

Booked: Manuel Lanzini 0          .

Sent off: None.

Fulham: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: David Coote.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Issa Diop.