Fulham fell to a 3-1 loss against West Ham United on Friday evening at the London Stadium.
An opener from Ryan Babel saw Fulham take an early lead before a controversial Chicharito goal levelled the score. After 20 minutes of parity Issa Diop smashed a header home to give the Hammers a half-time lead. Moments into stoppage time after a closely contested second half Michail Antonio grabbed a third to put the game to bed.
On a beautiful evening in East London Claudio Ranieri made three changes from the side that fell to defeat two weeks ago against a resurgent Manchester United outfit. Ryan Sessegnon replaced André Schürrle who was unable to participate after succumbing to a virus. Club captain Tom Cairney also returned to the starting XI & Håvard Nordtveit made his debut for Fulham, partnering Tim Ream at the heart of back line. With the changes the Whites also reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
With the 3000 travelling fans in fine voice it was a dream start for Fulham. After spurning a chance in the opening 30 seconds of the match Babel was on hand to despatch a wonderful cross from Sessegnon. Classic link up play from Mitro started a neat move, before the ball was eventually slipped into the path Sess who in turn swung in a wonderful ball across the face of goal which Babel tapped in.
The goal lifted the Fulham faithful to electric levels and the goal seemed to galvanise the ranks into a period where the home side was going to look for an answer. A scrappy and dogged 11 harassed and pressed all over the pitch, blocking challenges and making things difficult for the Hammers.
It was a cruel goal which levelled things up in the 29th minute. A cross was greeted by a two handed punch by Sergio Rico in Fulham net but it failed to clear the area and was hooked back into the box. After being flicked to the back post, Chicharito was on hand to glance home. On first impressions in the chaos of the box his effort seemed legal. However, replays clearly showed the Mexican striker used his arm to guide it in. A real gut punch for a unit that had impressed early on.
Things took a drastic turn for the worst in the 40th minute when West Ham took the lead. Robert Snodgrass, who had been whipping in some excellent crosses from dead ball situations swung in a picture perfect cross into a dangerous spot and Issa Diop drilled an unstoppable header past Rico.
The hosts were in full swing now and continued to press up to the half-time whistle but the scoreline remained the same as the referee brought the half to a close.
The manager rung the changes for the second half. André-Frank Zambo Anguissa was brought on in place of Jean Michael Seri, and Sessegnon made way for Lazar Marković.
Similar to the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage, West Ham solidified in the second half and played in a far more defensive manner. Restricting space and looking to catch us on the counter.
After sticking with it and enjoying large periods of the half in possession a chance fell to the feet of Mitro in the 83rd minute. Cairney who had looked composed and flashed brilliance throughout the half weaved his way to the edge of box. He prodded a neat ball into the feet of the Serbian striker but with West Ham defenders swarming he couldn’t connect cleanly and the ball was gathered by Lukasz Fabianski.
That proved to be the final chance for the Whites and deep into stoppage time Antonio headed home to put the encounter beyond doubt.
Attention now turns in earnest to the clash with Southampton on Wednesday night, as we look to pick up points in our battle against relegation.