West Ham overcome Fulham 3-1 in a Boxing day London derby at Craven Cottage.
On a frosty Boxing Day at Craven Cottage, Fulham continued a run which stretches back to 2003 of failing to win on December 26th.
West Ham were the side lucky enough to benefit from this festive hoodoo as they secured a most valuable three points in their bid to break with the tradition that sees the side bottom at Christmas relegated come May.
In a lively start to proceedings, Fulham attacked from the off, and Robert Green had to be on his toes in the first couple of minutes to rush out and beat Andrew Johnson to the ball after a Clint Dempsey flick-on. At the other end, John Pantsil snuffed out a chance for Junior Stanislas as the visitors attacked from the left.
Moments later Fulham were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Dempsey. Murphy’s delivery from deep was headed away as far as Gera, but his chipped effort looped over. Schwarzer then got down low to save a Stanislas cross from the West Ham left.
The Hammers then had a good opportunity to take the lead. Carlton Cole received the ball on the edge of the six-yard box and turned his marker, before flashing a low shot just wide of Schwarzer’s far post. The angle was tight, but the effort was close.
Five minutes later however, Fulham were in front. Carlos Salcido took Robert Green by surprise with a long shot from the left flank, the West Ham ‘keeper just managing to get across and knock the ball out for a corner. The resultant set piece ended with the ball back on the left from where Simon Davies delivered a hanging cross into the box and Aaron Hughes leapt practically unchallenged to head in his first goal for six years.
Now able to play with the confidence that gaining an early lead allows, Andy Johnson tried his luck with a 30 yard strike that Green had to get down to stop, and from a neat interchange of passes on the right, Davies delivered a teasing low cross that Johnson just missed.
With Danny Murphy dictating play in the middle of the park, the Whites skipper was central to a good move midway through the first half which saw the ball move from left to right before Simon Davies tried his luck from 25 yards – but his effort floated just over.
As the half progressed, Fulham appeared to be in control, passing and moving around with confidence, biding their time as they waited for an opening. But on 36 minutes all the good work was undone with one moment of poor fortune. Dickson Etuhu stuck out a foot to intercept a West Ham pass, and inadvertently deflected the ball towards the Fulham goal. Unfortunately, Carlton Cole was lurking to run on to the loose ball and stab it past Mark Schwazrer to level the scores.
And worse was to come before half-time. Buoyed by their goal, the Hammers attacked with more regularity. John Pantsil stopped one attack with two good tackles, and Mark Schwarzer saved bravely from Piquionne to thwart another. But nobody was on-hand to prevent the third as Scott Parker crossed from the left and Piquionne side-volleyed in from close range.
Early in the second-half Fulham made two changes. Damien Duff and Eddie Johnson were brought on in place of Etuhu and Dempsey, and soon after Fulham had their first real chance of the period. Pantsil sent in a curving ball from the right and Green had to leap out and punch clear to prevent Andy Johnson from converting the pass.
West Ham, meanwhile, were looking for a goal to put the tie beyond reach and Schwarzer saved from Kovac before Cole spun a shot into the side netting.
At the other end Brede Hangeland carried the ball forward and played a defence splitting pass to Andy Johnson who raced through one-on-one, but Matthew Upson did just enough to knock the striker off his stride, and his shot was saved well by Green.
Duff then attempted an ambitious effort from range, but with Green off his line, the ball whistled wide of the right hand post.
At the other end, Aaron Hughes stuck out a crucial leg to deny Stanislas a promising opportunity, but a minute later the Hammers got their third. Hughes could only get part of his head on to a ball from deep and it fell again to Cole who drilled confidently in for West Ham’s third.
A stunned Fulham tried to hit back straight away. Robert Green unbelievably managed to get a hand to a Eddie Johnson effort on the swicel from close range, pushing the ball out for a corner. And from the subsequent set piece, a goal mouth scramble ensued but none of Hangeland, Hughes or Andy Johnson could get a clear shot away, before the ball was scrapped out by the visitors.
With just over 10 minutes remaining, Fulham were still fighting for something from the game, but just lacking the final cutting edge that they so desperately needed. Murphy will have been disappointed with himself to slice a shot over from the penalty spot after a good low cross from Duff, and as the minutes ticked on, the visitors were able to see out the 90 minutes without any serious further threat.