Łukasz Fabiański: My reaction showed what it meant to all of us
Seldom in his long and successful career has Łukasz Fabiański showed such emotion on the football pitch as he did during and after Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League win over Fulham.
West Ham United’s Poland international is usually the calmest man on the field, but the circumstances of the Hammers’ dramatic derby victory at London Stadium meant he simply could not contain his feelings.
First, the Hammers missed a host of chances at the start of both halves before allowing Fulham to get back into the game, then visiting centre-forward Aleksandar Mitrovic angered the No1 by pushing Angelo Ogbonna into him, endangering both West Ham players, midway through the second period.
West Ham then took the lead a minute into added-time through Tomas Soucek before conceding a last-gasp penalty, which was awarded by referee Robert Jones following a VAR review and a look at the pitchside screen.
After nearly four minutes of delay, Ademola Lookman stepped up and tried to beat the 35-year-old with a chipped ‘Panenka’ effort that he got all wrong, allowing Fabiański to reach out and make an unexpectedly easy save which he celebrated with a loud roar and by launching the ball into the Billy Bonds Stand!
To be honest, I’ve never been in this situation before when the last kick of the game is a penalty kick, so that was different for me and you have to hold your nerve and make the right decision
“I mean, my reaction showed what it meant to all of us, because the game was a bit of a struggle and the ending was crazy, so to get that over the line was very important for us,” he told West Ham TV. “I think everyone was just happy because in the last minute of the game, with the penalty incident, the emotions were slowly rising and rising and they went through the roof after the final whistle because we really wanted to win this game and we did it, even though we didn’t play as well as we would have wanted.”
Had Fabiański ever faced a ‘Panenka’ penalty before during his 16-year, 412-game career?
“I had not really faced this quality of Panenka!” he smiled. “To be honest, I’ve never been in this situation before when the last kick of the game is a penalty kick, so that was different for me and you have to hold your nerve and make the right decision.
“I was lucky enough that the way he kicked the ball wasn’t the best strike but, then again, I didn’t go fully stretched and didn’t go really strong with the dive. I wanted to stay as long as I could, especially when they’re checking every possible thing that happens after the penalty with players running inside the box or, as a keeper, being off the line, so I didn’t want to give the referee another chance to look at the whole incident, and I managed to.”
Fabiański’s celebrations were eye-catching, but the stopper explained there was clear thinking behind his decision to dribble the ball away from goal before booting it into the stands.
“I think I caught the ball and the referee was still waiting to blow his whistle so I put it down and waited and waited and then he blew, so I just kicked it out, but I just had a bit of emotions running through my veins!” he smiled.
The only downside of Saturday’s bizarre but welcome victory was that, due to COVID-19 regulations, there were no fans to witness the late drama, just as was the case in the 3-3 come-from-behind draw at Tottenham Hotspur in October.
“I hope we are giving the fans joy because the games we have been involved in so far this season, I think have been really exciting to watch,” Fabianski observed.
“The run of the games that we’ve had was very difficult and every game had a different story and every single game we played to the final whistle, so it seems like we are exciting to watch and it would be awesome if the fans were able to see us here at the stadium, rather than watching us on the TV.”