Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Fulham 3 - 2 West Ham United

Now this was satisfying, although with the Hammers' Premier League survival ensured, not as satisfying as it could have been. I have a long-standing apathy for West Ham United - mainly because they keep beating my teams - so to see them beaten, and beaten relatively easily, was succour for the soul.
West Ham's self-aggrandizing owners had complained to the Premier League about the 'weakened' team put out at Hull City last month, saying that a ladies team would have beaten Fulham's starting XI. However the fact that 8 of the players from that game started this time around and managed to get past West Ham's strongest side speaks volumes on both the weakness of the complaints and the Hammers' team.
Resting after Thursday's extravaganza, Fulham put out its second string and it was still comfortable enough against West Ham. The first half had nothing in it - a couple of saves from both keepers and a Dempsey shot that bounced off the top of bar, so it was surprising when a one-two between Davies and Demspey opened up the Hammers defence with a minute to go and the American's quick shot beat Green at his near post. The way the ball bounced out of the goal fooled me into thinking the shot had gone wide at first, but no. A 1-0 lead plundered from nowhere and West Ham barely had time to kick off before the half time whistle was blown.
Craven Cottage was wet and cold on this day - such a contrast from the semi-final a few days before but not that the West Ham fans seemed to notice. Giddy from staying up (more because of the dearth of quality below them than anything their team did), the Hammers were noisy and boisterous and easily outsang a Fulham crowd emotionally spent from their European exploits.
Second half began and once again Fulham improved. When the second goal came, it was from an unlikely source. The ball bounced out from a corner and Chris Baird smacked it back into the mixer. At first I thought it had gone straight in, but everyone kind of stood around and Baird himself wasn't celebrating, so I assumed there had been a whistle and the goal disallowed. But no - the ball had deflected off the hapless Carlton Cole past his keeper, which is why Baird didn't really celebrate and Fulham suddenly had a cushion.
Not for long though. A long free kick into the box was met by the powerful English striker, who glanced the ball past Schwarzer into the goal. Cole had now scored two in five minutes after doing nothing all game. It's been a while since I've seen someone score for both teams though.
Then West Ham did what they've been doing all season - they shot themselves in the foot. Behrami fell over which let Konchesky have the ball. Jonathan Spector cut out the cross, but then tried to take on Erik Nevland (who had been transplanted onto the left wing to make room for Okaka). Nevland won the ball and swept the ball across the box for the Italian loanee to tap into the goal. All the players went to congratulate Nevland, while Okaka went off celebrating on his own.
West Ham plundered another goal in injury time but it didn't matter by then. (why do Fulham concede so many late goals but score so few? Maybe it's because they do most of the work before the end of the 90 minutes).
A five goal non-thriller then, but who cares when there's a cup final in Europe still to come. I wonder if Roy will don his boots for the game at Arsenal? Got keep them first-teamers fresh!

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