Fulham 3-2 West Ham United
West Ham United's poor run of form away from home continued until the last with a disappointing 3-2 Barclays Premier League defeat away to Fulham on Sunday.
A Clint Dempsey goal on the stroke of half-time, a freak effort from Chris Baird in off Carlton Cole on the hour and late third from substitute Stefano Okaka did the damage on a freezing day on the banks of the River Thames. Cole pulled one back at the right end two minutes after his own-goal, while substitute Guille Franco swept in a consolation in added-time.
Having been soaked on their way to the game and had few moments to cheer, the noisy Hammers supporters still remained in full voice - even singing 'We are going to win 4-3' when there were barely seconds to play. Gianfranco Zola could point to a harsh offside call on a clean-through Cole just before the opener but Fulham just about deserved the win.
The opening period of the first half was as uneventful as any game you will see, with only a raking Matthew Upson pass to a surging Jonathan Spector standing out for the Hammers. The US international did well to cut inside the penalty area but his final pass to Cole was just lacking.
Fulham were on a high after last Thursday's heroics against Hamburger SV that took them to the UEFA Europa League final. They made several changes, while Zola had the rare luxury of an unchanged side, with the only alteration in the 18 being the fit-again Luis Boa Morte's presence on the subs' bench in place of Benni McCarthy.
It was on 21 minutes that something of real note finally happened. Mark Schwarzer had to be alert to punch clear just in front of Valon Behrami. Fulham broke up the other end and Robert Green had to be equally lively to clear just as Erik Nevland prepared to pounce. Noble then blocked Paul Konchesky's follow-up.
The Hammers answered with a neat passing move that saw Ilan spread a crossfield pass out to Spector. He promptly found Noble and his turn and shot produced a fine diving save from Schwarzer. Upson rose to meet the resulting corner but could not direct it on target.
Dempsey came closer on 26 minutes, turning 25 yards out and hitting the crossbar but it was 15 minutes before another effort on target, with the impressive Da Costa's own speculative long-ranger forcing a Schwarzer one-handed save. Radoslav Kovac went up unchallenged for the corner that followed but his header was wayward and wide.
The half finished in controversial fashion. Cole was wrongly flagged offside from Julien Faubert's slide-rule pass and Fulham broke up the other end to break the deadlock with Dempsey's neat finish into the bottom corner.
It was a real blow and the Hammers looked to be feeling the effects of that early in the second half. Most notably Upson had to clear over his own bar while there was some zippy play from Simon Davies and Bjorn Helge Riise that had the visitors on the back-foot.
Things got worse when Baird hacked at a shot and it cannoned off Cole and beyond Green. The Hammers striker was able to make instant amends within two minutes, just after Zola had replaced Faubert and Ilan with birthday boy Alessandro Diamanti and Guille Franco. Cole leapt well to meet Noble's free-kick and nod past Schwarzer - moving him on to double figures for the season in all competitions.
It was not exactly a case of game on, but Scott Parker - unsurprisingly - led the way as the Hammers looked to take control and restore parity. Fulham withdrew Davies for Okaka to give the away side something to think about and, after riding out the initial flurry, regained control.
Okaka, wearing tights and gloves, settled it on 80 minutes. Spector presented the ball to Nevland and the striker was able to slide the ball across the goal for the on-loan AS Roma man to net. It was an easy finish and Hammers' hopes were dashed.
Zola introduced Junior Stanislas for Behrami in the closing stages, meaning there was to be no return for former Fulham favourite Boa Morte, while Fulham were able to rest Dempsey for David Elm.
Franco managed to slot in a goal in added time from Parker's cut-back but in truth it was a damp squib of an end to an awayday campaign that saw the Hammers fail to win on their travels since the opening day. In bright summer sunshine, the Hammers had won 2-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Those days, and that weather, seem a long, long time ago.