West Ham United 1-0 Fulham
Tomas Soucek’s injury time goal and Lukasz Fabianski’s even later penalty save gave West Ham United a hard-fought, dramatic 1-0 victory over Fulham on Saturday evening.
Dramatic wasn’t the word that looked likely to describe the contest as it entered stoppage time, but there was action at both ends before the points were secured.
There didn’t look any way back for Fulham when Soucek netted, after being teed up by Said Benrahma in the first minute of added time, but then, with the last kick of the game, Benrahma was involved in the other box, fouling Tom Cairney as Fulham sensed a lifeline.
To the Hammers’ relief, Ademola Lookman made a complete hash of the penalty, attempting a Panenka but neglecting to direct the ball away from Fabianski, who made the simplest of saves to send West Ham into the international break on a high.
The Hammers made a lightning-fast start and were unfortunate not to move in front four times inside the first five minutes.
Arthur Masuaku was first to go close, seeing his shot hit Ola Aina on the line after Pablo Fornals’ cross squirmed through the six-yard box, before the ball fell to Aaron Cresswell on the edge of the box, and his left-footed strike wobbled in the air and needed a save from Alphonse Areola.
Jarrod Bowen was next to warm Areola’s fingertips, catching a left-footed volley sweetly from just outside the area.
Then, from the resulting fifth minute corner, Sebastien Haller came closest of all, rising high to plant a firm header towards goal which struck the top of the crossbar on the way over.
The Hammers looked in the mood, but Fulham survived that early onslaught and felt their way into the game, with their neat, controlled possession working the visitors into dangerous areas.
The Cottagers did find their route to goal blocked by some disciplined Hammers defending, however, and their best chance before the break fell to Aleksandar Mitrovic, who nodded wide of the left-hand post after Cairney swung over an inviting cross for the Serb midway through the half.
West Ham were limited in their chances themselves after that opening salvo, but they were mere inches again from breaking the deadlock right at the start of the second period.
This time Cresswell was the unfortunate player as his free-kick from 20 yards fizzed against the top of the bar with Areola beaten.
Fulham replied with a brace of chances midway through the half. Lookman fired a free-kick into Fabianski’s grasp from the edge of the box, and then Bobby De Cordova-Reid got the better of Masuaku and fired towards the far post, but Fabianski got down smartly to make the save.
David Moyes introduced Benrahma and Manuel Lanzini from the bench as he searched for the key to unlock the Fulham defence, and the former’s twinkle-toes almost found it in the final minute. The shooting angle was against him though, and Areola stood tall at the near post to save twice from the Algerian.
Improbably, that was just the start of the drama.
As the clock ticked over the 90, and with four minutes of added time signalled, the Hammers took the lead. Benrahma was involved, taking the ball down inside the area and laying off for Soucek to steer a right-footed shot beyond Areola and into the net.
There was still time for one final twist, or so it seemed. In the final minute of those four, Benrahma was penalised, after a VAR check, for a foul on Cairney inside the area.
Lookman stepped up and was too cute with his spot kick, trying to dink the ball home to earn his side a point. Fortunately for the Hammers, his effort was a woeful one and Fabianski had the simple task of making the save.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna (Diop 63), Cresswell, Masuaku, Bowen (Lanzini 72), Rice, Soucek, Fornals (Benrahma 72), Haller
Subs: Randolph, Fredericks, Snodgrass, Yarmolenko
Goal: Soucek 90+1
Booked: Ogbonna, Diop
Fulham: Areola, Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson, Anguissa (Cavaleiro 90+3), Reed, De Cordova-Reid (Loftus-Cheek 83), Cairney, Lookman, Mitrovic
Subs: Rodak, Hector, Ream, Kebano, Bryan
Booked: Mitrovic, Loftus-Cheek
Referee: Robert Jones