Solano settles capital contest

A last-gasp goal from Nolberto Solano settled a competitive encounter at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon.

Before kick-off, both teams united to honour Bobby Moore, who died 15 years ago this weekend. West Ham United knew they needed a win to kick-start their charge for the European places while Fulham, in 19th place, were in need of precious points to aid their fight for survival. After a closely-fought hour of play, substitute Solano brought much-needed invention to the visitors' attack and struck the decisive blow with a close-range finish on 87 minutes.

On a chilly afternoon in west London, Alan Curbishley had given Carlton Cole the nod to play the lone strikers' role while Fulham employed similar 4-5-1 tactics with the fit again Brian McBride as the figurehead. It was the supporting players who initially looked most lively, with Luis Boa Morte underlining his intent with a first-minute challenge on Leon Andreasen.

For Fulham, Clint Dempsey and Jimmy Bullard were buzzing around and in the seventh minute they produced the first shot. From Bullard's pass, Dempsey ran at Lucas Neill before letting fly. Anton Ferdinand was alive to it and managed to block before the ball ran to Paul Konchesky who shot into Robert Green's hands.

In the 12th minute, Cole connected first time with Mark Noble's early cross and Antti Niemi produced a smart stop. The match became scrappy after that with Freddie Ljungberg twice upended in quick succession. The second foul led to a Mark Noble free-kick in a central position. The midfielder flashed his 30-yarder under the wall but Niemi was alert enough to save.

Cole then went close again in the 19th minute after Boa Morte did well under pressure from Brede Hangeland. The striker was just about to let fly when Konchesky intercepted. A minute later, Cole smashed a fierce shot on the turn that just cleared Niemi's crossbar. At the other end, Bullard and Dempsey remained a threat without worrying Green too much.

Midway through the half, Julien Faubert and Faubert swapped flanks as Curbishley's men looked to find a way through a strong home defence. On 27 minutes, Boa Morte sent in a back header that just looped over the crossbar. The former Fulham man was growing in confidence and a moment of sublime close control saw a bemused Andreasen booked for a late challenge.

Fulham ended the half strongly with Kamara unleashing a stinging effort in the 37th minute that Matthew Upson did well to block before McBride's first sight of goal finished with a low shot into Green's body. Dempsey then got a chance to shoot just before half-time but Ferdinand was able to clear.

There was a stop-start feel to the early stages of the second half as Kamara and Bullard both tried their luck only for Ferdinand and then Ljungberg to get in the way of their goalbound shots. Noble then required lengthy treatment after being hit in the face by a stray McBride boot. Fulham were going for it with Hangeland just heading over the bar from Konchesky's corner.

As the hour approached, the game opened up. Noble fed Faubert away down the right and his cross looked menacing before Niemi came to claim with relative ease. On 60 minutes, Noble played a delightful one-two with Faubert inside the penalty area but his shot was just off target. Two minutes later, Ljungberg shot low into Niemi's hands after more bright play from Noble.

The tiring Faubert, making his first start, went off to be replaced by Solano on 63 minutes and he was to take instant control of the visitors' attack. Two minutes later, Noble fed Cole with a superb crossfield pass. The No12's shot was deflected off target before Mullins blasted wide from the resulting corner. Dempsey got a chance on the counterattack but his shot was weak.

A great chance fell to Cole in the 73rd minute from Ljungberg's cross but the move was all about a stunning slide-rule pass from Solano. When the ball came to Cole on the edge of the six-yard box he did well with his header but Niemi made a good save. Roy Hodgson had seen enough and, with 15 minutes to play, Dempsey went off to be replaced by fellow US striker Eddie Johnson, making his debut.

Fulham were boosted by the change and within 30 seconds, Andreasen was allowed to shoot but McCartney was able to get a block in. On 79 minutes, Hughes nearly caught out Niemi with a stray backpass but the home side frantically scrambled the ball away. With ten minutes to play, Dean Ashton came on for Cole as Curbishley also looked for the winner.

Fittingly for a team fighting for top-flight survival and with only one win in 16 matches, Fulham were going all out and nearly had the breakthrough when Johnson blazed over when well placed to the right of goal. Bullard should also have done better in the 86th minute after being slipped through on goal with Green doing brilliantly to save.

A goal was coming but it was to come up the other end courtesy of the inspirational Solano. Neill chipped into the penalty area for Boa Morte. The former Fulham man controlled the ball on his chest before it ran into the path of Solano, who was able to hook into the net just before Niemi could get there. Andreasen was then sent off for protesting the manner of the goal and, despite five minutes of added time, West Ham United were able to hold firm for the victory.

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