West Ham United 3-1 Fulham
Sunday, 9th October 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
It was back-to-back Premier League wins for West Ham, and three wins in eight days after The Hammers came from behind to beat Fulham 3-1 at the London Stadium.After Pereira was allowed to score after five minutes, the Hammers took control of the game and made slow improvements throughout to eventually take all three points.
They were helped by all the officiating calls going their way, with a first half penalty awarded when a more cautious referee may have chosen not to, whilst VAR could easily have ruled out both the second half goals.
But favour was with West Ham, and it so rarely has been on borderline decisions. Goals for Bowen, Scamacca and one to settle it in stoppage time for Antonio were enough to give The Hammers victory.
Having started in the ascendancy, Fulham broke easily down the left side as Pereira was slipped into the box. On the wide left of the area, Pereira had no options to pass to, but was allowed space on the ball by Zouma, who put no pressure on his man.
With that time and space, and no options to pass to, Pereira fired a snapshot at goal, and the pace of the ball was too much for Fabianski, who can't have expected the effort and was beaten by it as it flew into the back of the net.
Fabianski should have saved it, whilst Zouma's defending was lackadaisical, at best. Both have had concerns over them this season, whether it's Zouma not looking fit or as strong as last season or the pressure on the number one spot that Areola puts on Fabianski. The goal will have been more fuel to the fire on both arguments.
Whatever Fulham's game plan might have been before the goal, it was clear after Pereira's strike. The visitors allowed West Ham possession and sat in, looking to spring attacks on turnovers and in transition.
It has long been an effective tactic against West Ham, a side who often seem better on the ball if they have less of it.
Yet it was Fulham who came closest again, and it was again sloppy pressure on the ball. With possession on the edge of the box, James eventually looked up at goal, took two or three touches to settle himself and then unleashed on his weaker left foot. The shot beat Fabianski and rattled the bar before flying to safety, but the real horror was how static the West Ham defence and midfield were as an attacker went to take a shot.
In fairness to West Ham, they did buck their ideas up, and Fulham had no shots in the first half after the 16th minute.
In the 17th, West Ham had their first big chance. A lovely guided cross from the left by Paqueta found Scamacca in space in the area, and at the perfect height about 10 yards from goal. The header was met, firmly headed down, but it was too close to the goalkeeper and well saved. There was a slight deflection on the ball to Scamacca, but he should have done better.
Fulham remained a threat on the counter and on those turnovers, with one only thwarted by a great defensive run by Fornals, tracking his runner into the box and taking it off his toes just as he was rolled in on goal in the box.
A minute later, Scamacca dragged a chance wide after good work from Paqueta. The Italian was a magnet for West Ham's chances, soon heading straight at the goalkeeper again on a sharp chance at the near post after good work by Cresswell and Fornals.
The rebound from that chance was cleared from a corner, and West Ham profited.
It was not, however, in the way you might have thought. After the corner was delayed as the referee twice intervened to tell Pereira to keep his arms down to stop blocking the runs of Dawson, the corner was taken and down went Dawson. The referee didn't hesitate a moment, blowing his whistle and pointing to the spot, punishing Pereira for once more throwing an arm out to block Dawson running past him.
It's one that wouldn't look a penalty in isolation, but had to be after the referee had told the Fulham midfielder twice about the risk he was taking in using his arms to block the runs.
Up stepped Bowen, and the England international stroked it low into an empty corner to score his second penalty of the season and get his side back level.
With 15 minutes to half time, West Ham looked confident having got their goal. Chances were at a premium until the break, but Fulham were no longer finding moments to break out and scare their hosts on the counter.
The only worry came as Craig Dawson went down for treatment, but after choosing to battle through until the break, there was never a suggestion of worry from then onward.
The sides went in at 1-1, and West Ham had had eight shots since Fulham's last in that 16th minute. Fulham were furious about the award of the penalty, but could be happy that they were offering a threat on the counter.
The Hammers came close to scoring within a minute of the restart, Paqueta attempting to catch Leno out in the Fulham goal by just steering a disguised shot to the near post when everyone expected a cross. The goalkeeper did well, and can feel aggrieved that he's played well yet still conceded three goals.
Arguably the standout West Ham player will have flown under the radar, lost in praise for Scamacca, Paqueta and Bowen. It was the left back that created another chance for Scamacca, and Cresswell was very good throughout.
The pattern of the game remained much the same, with Fulham flying forward at pace whenever they could regain possession, but West Ham were getting better and better on the ball. They are yet to truly click, but the time on the ball and in charge of the game seemed to allow them to get more comfortable and play their way into form.
And what West Ham have in Bowen and Scamacca are two players who can decide a game with clinical moments, whilst a player like Paqueta will find an inventive pass if he's given the opportunity.
It was the two new boys in that pack that gave West Ham the lead.
Similarly to Scamacca's goal in the week, it was again Paqueta producing a lovely dinked pass over a defender to get the Italian striker into the area.
The ball bounced down for Scamacca to control. His touch squeezed the ball behind him, where it bounced up by his hand, by his elbow, and then back to the forward's feet.
As composed as a man could be, Scamacca lifted the ball beautifully over Leno, perfectly weighted to loop out of the sky and drop over the goal line.
It was an exquisite finish, but the striker barely celebrated. The crowd went wild, his teammates did too, but the Italian reacted like a man who was waiting for his goal to be ruled out.
VAR, of course, was on hand. On the first check, he was just, just, very much just onside.
Then came the slo-mo replays. First it went past his hand, but it was impossible to tell from the pictures shown whether it had made contact.
We moved onto the elbow next. And again, whether it did or not, VAR could not show definitively whether it had or not.
Later replays, zoomed in, did show a movement of the fingers that looked like contact, but those pictures were not available to VAR. In the end, Fulham can be understandably frustrated, but the referee and officials did not blow for a foul, and VAR could not overrule it. It will feel harsh for Fulham fans, but a reasoned view will see that there is little the officials could have done.
The finish was quite wonderful, outstanding in technique and composure. The man is a goalscorer, and has ability above and beyond what any West Ham fan expected the long-awaited striker signing to have. Maybe the wait was worth it?
There was just under half an hour remaining. West Ham retreated back, playing with more caution, having played most of the half in Fulham's half.
Whilst it eliminated the counter-attacking threat, it did allow Fulham more possession and more time on the ball. That being said, whilst it never felt comfortable to watch, Fulham were restricted to one real chance.
However, they really should have scored when given that opportunity. Robinson got to the byline, and his cutback fell to the feet of Cairney. The midfielder took a touch and dug out a shot, which looked to be nestling into the bottom corner, but for a lunging block from Cresswell on the line prevented what looked to be a sure goal.
It was the last real moment of worry for West Ham, who could have scored themselves moments later when Rice made a run down the left. The midfielder never seemed quite in control of the ball, and neither did Fornals when it was passed to him in the box, nor Paqueta who got it from Fornals. The shot was eventually taken by the Brazilian, and blocked.
With 10 minutes left, Antonio made his way on for Scamacca, whose influence had waned drastically since the goal.
He was soon in on goal after an excellent pass over the defence by Fornals, but he took an extra touch to get the ball onto his right, missing the opportunity to either hit a shot on his left or drive it across goal to Bowen.
As West Ham looked to ease the game down to full-time, Rice shone. Suddenly he was everywhere he needed to be, and the midfield two made a very good base as the attacking unit tried to settle things.
In the end, it was that base that created the goal, too. Rice won the ball back, Soucek lobbed the ball over the defence and then Antonio reminded everyone that for all the beauty of Scamacca's craft, there is an undeniable joy about the things Antonio does best.
Racing onto the bouncing ball, he brushed off one defender, bulldozed through a second and made his way into the area. His shot, one-on-one with Leno, was poor, too soft and too close to the goalkeeper. But it wasn't held, and Tim Ream rushing back to goal ran into the loose ball, knocking it back into the legs of Leno, and then back to Antonio.
He feigned to shoot, made space for himself and passed the ball into an empty net to settle the match and score his first home league goal since Boxing Day last year.
And that was that. West Ham were not at their best, but got better as they went on, and deserved all three points. They may have found fortune today, but it was fortune deserved, and they earned their victory. Little signs of improvement were everywhere, with Paqueta and Scamacca finding a connection again, Bowen looking sharper, Antonio causing problems off the bench, Fornals shrugging off some of the malaise and Cresswell put in a brilliant performance.
There are concerns over Zouma and Fabianski, whilst Kehrer has had better games, but the defence still looks more solid for the return of Dawson. The problems deep in possession were not fixed, but West Ham did improve with the ball. With the Europa Conference League group all but sewn up, The Hammers are now up to 13th in the table, level with Brentford and Liverpool, and easing any of the fears of what could happen in this whirlwind season.
David Moyes 7/10: Solid and controlled, the manager didn't panic about being behind and will be happy that he got performances across the team.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Should not have been beaten by the Pereira shot, whether he expected it or not. Claimed good high balls, but failed the only real test of his game.
Quiet game, where there were moments where a lack of presence on the right was clear. Kehrer is a better passer than Coufal, and better in the team with the struggles that were clear, but doesn't cover the ground and make the movements like a natural attacking right back like Coufal does. Throws himself into some rash, rash challenges, too.
A stellar performance, and one that should not go unnoticed by fans who have called for his head. Drove up the wing with the ball, overlapped Fornals to make that left side a threat, the left side was dominated by Fornals and Cresswell. Produced multiple brilliant crosses that found Scamacca, and then made that crucial stop to keep the lead at 2-1.
Did all his defensive work well, calmly, and then won a penalty. Simple.
Sloppy in a few different moments. The defending on the goal was lazy, foolish or both. When it retreated to deep defending in the box, he looked more comfortable on the basics.
A good, solid game and then crucial awareness late on to halt attacks, steal the ball, and get West Ham going forward again.
Would have been a 5 before the late goal, but then he lifts a perfectly weighted ball over the defence for Antonio. Not good on the ball otherwise, but solid in defence and positionally aware. For what Moyes wants, this will be enough for the Czech midfielder to keep his place.
Buzzed around, working hard, getting close to Scamacca and looked a threat. Took the penalty well and deserved that goal.
Got better as it went on and is looking a better player now the team is more settled and the passing around him is getting better. The left side was very good, and he created chances and defended well.
Still sometimes wants a little more time than he's allowed, but is starting to grow in influence and make connections with his teammates. Lovely touches, isn't afraid to just play a simple flick pass first time when others want time to consider their option.
What a good finish. He maybe should have scored more, but there is a lot to be said for how clever his positioning and movement is, and how well he is linking with players around him.
(Replaced Scamacca 79) He is looking a very good sub to use, regardless of game situation. He's fresh, defenders aren't, and he looks like he has something to prove.
(Replaced Paqueta 83) Did what was required in his cameo.
(Replaced Fornals 90) N/A
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Thilo Kehrer, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Lucas Paqueta, Gianluca Scamacca.
Goals: Jarrod Bowen 29 Gianluca Scamacca 62 Michail Antonio 90 .
Booked: Thilo Kehrer 83 .
Sent off: None.
Fulham: Leno, Adarabioyo, Ream (c), Robinson, James (Wilson 77), Reed (Cairney 71), Palhinha, Pereira (Onomah 77), De Cordova-Reid, Kebano (Duffy 88), Vinícius.
Subs not used: Rodák, Mbabu, Diop, Harris, Godo.
Goals: Pereira (5).
Booked: Pereira (28), Reed (28), M.Silva (65), Vinícius (65).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell.