Fulham slipped to 0-2 defeat against West Ham United in Saturday’s late kick-off on a dreary afternoon at Craven Cottage.
First half goals against the run of play from Robert Snodgrass & Michail Antonio saw the visitors take a commanding lead into the half before closing out the second period with minimal incident.
Claudio Ranieri made two changes to the side that fell to defeat away at Old Trafford last Saturday and tweaked the formation to play in a flat 4-4-2 set-up. Aboubakar Kamara, who provided energy and pace off the bench in Manchester started alongside Aleksandar Mitrović. Furthermore, Ryan Sessegnon picked up a slight injury in the build-up to the match and in his absence André Schürrle slotted in to play on the left side of the midfield.
It was a dark, dreary and wet afternoon by the banks of the Thames in the build-up to the match, with torrential rain ever-present. It was no different when referee Mike Dean got the match up and running.
The opening three minutes was a scrappy affair with neither side able to take control on a greasy Cottage surface. However, the first shot fell to the feet of Jean Michaël Seri. A drilled freekick from Alfie Mawson was pumped up to the head of Mitrović who headed one back into the path of the Ivorian playmaker. After quickly taking control he was unable to keep his right-footed shot down and it flew over the bar.
The positive play from the Whites continued and in the ninth minute they had a golden opportunity to open the scoring. After controlling the ball in the centre of the park, Mitro turned his man and slipped a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Kamara who had surged in behind a flatfooted West Ham back line. With only the keeper to beat the powerful striker looked to place a right-footed shot into the bottom left hand corner. However, Lukasz Fabiabski was alert to the danger and parried it behind for a corner. A big chance to open the scoring for Fulham squandered.
Despite the bright start West Ham opened the scoring against the run of play in the 17th minute. A long ball into the left hand channel was mistimed by Denis Odoi and his attempted sliding tackle took him past the path of the ball. Anderson seized the chance and attacked the area, committing bodies in the process. After space had opened up on the edge of the area the Brazilian played a pass back into the feet of Snodgrass. Without hesitation he lashed a shot passed the wrong footed Sergio Rico.
Fulham heads did not drop and in the 25th minute Joe Bryan whipped in a lovely ball into across the six-yard box. The ball was met by Mitro at the back post but his powerful header flew past the post and into the Hammersmith End.
Minutes later Kamara had another opportunity to trouble Fabianski but his header lacked power and was easily gathered in the West Ham goal.
Once more the Whites were made to pay for their missed chances. After weathering the storm the ball was worked out to Anderson on the left wing. In a confident and buoyed mood, the stylish attacker swung in a cross. Javier Hernandez reacted quickly and flicked the ball to an unmarked Antonio and with time and space to pick his spot, he slid a shot through the legs of the onrushing Rico.
Two mistakes punished without hesitation saw the Whites head into the break with a mountain to climb in the second period.
The Manager made on change at the break, replacing Tim Ream with Cyrus Christie, moving Denis Odoi in the centre of the back four alongside Alfie Mawson.
The substitute almost immediately made an impact. After some neat link up play with Tom Cairney down the right flank a dangerous ball was drilled low in the box. With Mitro lurking the ball was scrambled clear and West Ham removed the danger.
Contented to sit back an absorb pressure the Whites could not find a way through a solid West Ham set-up and were unable to generate any chances on goal and the second half played out with next to no incident.
Claudio Ranieri and his squad now have a week to prepare for their trip North to take on Newcastle United ahead of Christmas.