West Ham United 1 Fulham 0
Saturday, 7th November 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
A stoppage-time Tomas Soucek goal secured West Ham three points at the London Stadium this evening, but they can thank an errant Ademola Lookman penalty in the last seconds of the game for that scoreline remaining unchanged.It appeared for all the world that Fulham would take a point with the last kick of the game, only for the loanee forward to chip the ball softly into Fabianski's grateful hands and throw away a point they looked to have salvaged.
Both had been set up by substitute Said Benrahma, the Algerian coming on for his home debut to quite dramatic effect. It was he who laid the ball off to Soucek to score, and it was he who fouled Cairney in the penalty area after the added-time had all but finished.
Selecting an unchanged side from last week's narrow defeat to Liverpool, David Moyes's men had a challenge many had been anxious to see them overcome: that of winning a game when the emphasis was on them to go out and take control.
For large swathes of it, that challenge seemed beyond them. With time running out, Fulham looked to have defended well enough to take a 0-0 and a precious point. Soucek's knack of appearing in the penalty area at the right time cost them.
The game itself was curious in pattern. Each half opened with frenzied West Ham attacks, the home side hitting the crossbar within ten minutes of each restart. These were both followed by periods where Fulham's control of the ball kept West Ham at arm's length, although they did little to threaten goal for the majority of that. Fabianski's first save did not come until the 69th minute and the Hammers number one wasn't really threatened until Lookman's little chip in the 98th.
Moyes will be right to have mixed feelings about how his side played.
He will have seen an opening salvo that could have produced three goals, Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola producing some wonderful saves to from Cresswell, Masuaku and Bowen early on, the latter one quite remarkable considering the deflection en route to goal.
From the resulting corner, Haller rose above all to hammer in a header, only to see his effort cannon off the bar and behind.
It was a ten minute spell in which the home side looked electric, but that dissipated from there. Fulham were neat on the ball and often in the West Ham half, but there was a final ball missing, even an attempt at a final ball on occasions. In response, West Ham's play was often too slow, plodding around in midfield and passing with little invention or idea.
The only other chance of the half fell to Bowen, a wonderful Cresswell cross to the back-post at a great height, but the winger headed harmlessly wide when he really should have done better. You feel Haller, Soucek or Antonio would have put it away.
Half time came with no goals, West Ham with four shots on target and an effort against the bar. Fulham, possession in their favour, had not threatened Fabianski at all.
The players returned for the second half and that cycle repeated itself again. West Ham came out all guns blazing, and created chances once more. A Cresswell freekick on the edge of the area cannoned off the bar, replays revealing a slight but significant touch from Areola again. Bowen was unlucky too, his shot from the edge of the area deflecting inches wide off a Fulham defender with the goalkeeper beaten.
But that was it. Fulham again got comfortable, played neatly and created nothing. Criticisms were levelled at them similarly last year, and Scott Parker will have to find a solution if they are to survive.
He would have been cheered by the performance of Ademola Lookman, at least for 97 mins. The young forward dribbled excellently, repeatedly beating Rice and other defenders, and seemed to be the wildcard to their otherwise repetitive passing play.
Their control started to worry West Ham, and that concern was only heightened when defensive stalwart, and best defender at the club Angelo Ogbonna walked off with an injury.
Fulham forced saves, a tame freekick and an effort in the area not really troubling the assured Fabianski in goal, but at the other end there was no invention and no threat. Fulham started to sit deep, and old problems breaking down sides continued.
It was again too slow, too predictable. Lanzini and Benrahma were brought on, but replacing Bowen and Fornals left West Ham still with their five at the back shape and not at all changing how they played; their patterns of passing nor their shape.
Benrahma was the bright spark, doing well after a lovely nutmeg pass by Cresswell to dribble into the area and force a save from a narrow angle.
It all appeared to be drifting to a 0-0 and a disappointing point, which would have felt painful after picking up good points in the games we were not expected to take much from.
But with 92 minutes on the clock, Balbuena launched a ball into the box at Haller. It soared over the striker, and down to Benrahma.
His composure was key, bringing it down and rolling it centrally and across Soucek in the middle of the area. The Czech midfielder was brilliant, letting it run across him and side-footing the ball low into the corner, finishing with the ease of a striker and, it looked, giving West Ham three points they may have been lucky to get.
They should feel lucky too. Not only was Haller offside when the ball was fired in, you could argue he did jump towards the ball, and as such should have been ruled offside. Both managers agreed at the final whistle, but the points were going West Ham's way because the officials with VAR apparently didn't.
You'd be forgiven for thinking a 92nd minute goal would have been the winner. It really shouldn't have been.
Fulham went direct, throwing men forward and causing outright panic in the West Ham defence. Balls into the box were half-cleared at best. Players were coming together and so nearly making risky challenges in the box.
As 94 minutes came, the allotted stoppage time completed, Fulham had one last corner. Half-cleared once more, Cairney gathered just inside the area and tried to squirm through Lanzini and Benrahma. Both dangled legs, but it was the Algerian whose foot came down on the attacker's and gave him the opportunity to fall. It was weak, again, the contact definitely not forcing the fall. Much like Salah last week, the attacker felt contact and went down.
The referee initially didn't give it, however VAR sent him to his screen to look once more and change his mind. Penalty given, although arguments from Diop and others gave a three-minute delay before Lookman stepped up.
He tried the cheeky chip, the Panenka, and got it all wrong. Fabianski had flown to his right early, but was able to catch the floating ball as it softly landed in his gloves. The whistle blew, Lookman crushed, West Ham elated. As Balbuena and Benrahma both offered words of consolation to the man who missed, others celebrated a hard-fought three points, leaving Moyes and his men 11th in the table on eleven points after eight games.
Questions remain about this side's ability to beat teams who don't make all the play, and how effectively they can attack if not on the counter. But three points are three points.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Had three saves to make and did well with them all. The penalty was poor, but a lot of credit too to Fabianski who could have already given up when he dived for a ball that wasn?EUR(TM)t coming. That Lookman chipped it so meekly and not too far from him made it easy to catch, but he was aware and did the job.
Defensively sound, put in a few good crosses that could have had better outcomes. Lacks pace and guile but a good addition.
When we attacked well early, Masuaku was often involved. His pace scares defenders. But found it hard as Fulham defended deep, limiting space to dribble and jink through.
Defended calmly and wasn?EUR(TM)t really involved in any of the chances. Would have been rightly aggrieved had the freekick he gave away been converted; the studs were high and aggressive at him and should have been punished.
The drama at the end doesn?EUR(TM)t happen with Ogbonna on the pitch. Defence lost a leader and he dealt with Mitrovic well, including how he got him booked.
Should never have spent the first half defending against Mitrovic, but did it well. So unlucky hitting the bar with a freekick, had an excellent half volley saved and crossed dangerously.
Couldn?EUR(TM)t handle Lookman?EUR(TM)s dribbling or those passes as mentioned above. Sloppy today.
Struggled in his midfield play defensively, the extra man Fulham had and their quick and neat short passing often got round him. But he took his goal excellently, placing it in the corner almost like Sheringham would.
In those bursts of attacks at the start of each half he looked good. But otherwise he was another just outnumbered by the sea of Fulham defenders.
Dangerous long range efforts aside, it just felt like we had too few attackers on so he, Fornals and Haller struggled with Fulham?EUR(TM)s defensive numbers.
Better than last week and very unlucky not to score. It was a game where the service to him was not good, and any good service he used well. His nuisance factor gets us the goal.
(Replaced Ogbonna, 63) That he basically went unnoticed is a good sign.
(Replaced Bowen, 72) Not really suited to the wide role, especially down the right. He worked hard defending and bringing the ball out, especially as West Ham's men in the middle looked as though they were tiring.
(Replaced Fornals, 72) Eventful for a cameo, that's for sure! The assist was very good, simple but very good. And his dribbling into the box for his eventual shot showed a glimmer of the different skillset he could bring. It was your classic weak, dangling leg tackle that all forwards seem capable of making that gave away the penalty, but it won't be remembered thanks to Lookman's miss.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Sebastien Haller.
Goals: Tomas Soucek 90 .
Booked: Angelo Ogbonna Issa Diop .
Sent off: None.
Fulham: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson, Anguissa (Cavaleiro 90+3), Reed, De Cordova-Reid (Loftus-Cheek 83), Cairney, Lookman, Mitrovic.
Subs not used: Rodak, Hector, Ream, Kebano, Bryan.
Booked: Mitrovic, Loftus-Cheek.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Robert Jones.
Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell.