West Ham make it four wins in a row with victory at Fulham
PUBLISHED: 19:36 15 December 2018
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First-half goals from Snodgrass and Antonio settle matters for Hammers
Fulham 0 West Ham United 2
The Hammers destructive December continued at ice-cold Craven Cottage, where they made it a fabulous four-timer to climb into ninth-spot and leave floundering Fulham rooted to the foot of the Premier League table.
With seasonal sleet blowing in from the River Thames, rudderless Fulham were left up the creek without a paddle as Manuel Pellegrini’s on-form, on-fire West Ham United made it a quartet of straight top-flight wins for the first time since February 2014.
Re-invented, rampant Robert Snodgrass put the Hammers in front on 17 minutes with his fourth goal of the season, before the recalled Michail Antonio doubled the lead with his third strike of the campaign on the half-hour mark.
The Hammers heartening hat-trick of victories this month over Newcastle United, Cardiff City and Crystal Palace, already meant that they had arrived at Craven Cottage in 12th-spot – a dozen points and eight places above Claudio Ranieri’s side, who tellingly have not kept a clean sheet all season.
And following his team’s 3-2 win over Palace last Saturday, Pellegrini made just one enforced switch as Antonio replaced the injured Lucás Perez (ankle), while Portuguese U20 starlet, Alexandre Xande Nascimento Costa Silva - to give him his full name – appeared on the West Ham bench for the first time.
Just like Pellegrini at Manchester City, Ranieri had also won the Premier League in a previous life but defeat at Manchester United last weekend had left Fulham rock-bottom, meaning that the Italian kicked-off at the totally opposite end of the table to his miraculous Leicester City days.
In response to that reverse at Old Trafford, Fulham made two forced changes as Calum Chambers and Aboubakar Kamara came in for André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (suspended) and Ryan Sessegnon (groin).
After Jean Michaël Seri curled an early, speculative 25-yarder high into the freezing Fulham night, André Schürrle sent another long-ranger sizzling just inches over the top and, with just nine minutes on the clock, the recalled Kamara then had a glorious chance to put his side ahead, when he raced clear from halfway but the helplessly-exposed Lukasz Fabianski brilliantly parried his low 10-yard shot aside for a corner.
It was to prove a costly and crucial miss for, on 17 minutes, the Hammers broke the deadlock, when Felipe Anderson both out-thought and out-fought Denis Odoi out on the left flank and, leaving the Fulham defender seeing only the studs of his blistering boots, the Brazilian squared to the supporting Snodgrass, who curled a wonderful, first-time, 20-yarder beyond the Rico’s despairing dive and under the left-hand angle.
Having superbly netted his first-ever Premier League goal for the Hammers last weekend, the Scotsman’s equally spectacular strike visibly deflated the hosts, who had certainly looked in little danger up until that moment.
Desperately trying to get back on level terms, Aleksandar Mitrović sent a diving header behind at the far post before Kamara’s nod-down was saved at the second attempt by the flying Fabianski, who then parried another 20-yard thunderbolt from Fulham’s Frenchman.
Yet again, with Ranieri’s side beginning to threaten, they somehow saw their energy and effort unravel, once more, as the Hammers doubled their lead on the half-hour mark, when the accelerating Anderson dashed down the left before crossing into the area, where pint-sized Hernández got in front of Tim Ream to head the ball towards the far post, leaving the supporting, unmarked Antonio to prod beyond Rico from six yards.
With the Hammers determined to carry their lead into the interval, skipper Mark Noble’s over-zealous slide into Mitrović earned him a yellow card, while Seri also went into referee Mike Dean’s book for an attempted trip on Antonio.
Then, just before the break, Schürrle’s angled 20-yarder whistled just an inch or so beyond the base of Fabianski’s left-hand upright to compound a miserable opening 45 minutes for the crest-fallen Cottagers, who replaced Ream with Cyrus Christie for the restart.
Although Fulham mustered a few goalmouth scrambles they were making no inroads into that two-goal deficit and, on the hour, Stefan Johansen replaced the retiring Seri, while Pedro Obiang came on for Noble.
With goalmouth action becoming more and more scarce as the night wore on, Andy Carroll was summoned from the bench to replace Hernández but, by now, this contest was effectively all but over and, having moved into the top-half of the table, the Hammers now face 10th-placed Watford next Saturday.
Maybe - just maybe - they can make it a fantastic five-timer going into the festive break, while defeat at Newcastle will leave the crumbling Cottagers bottom of the league on Christmas Day.
COTTAGERS: Rico, Odoi, Bryan, Ream (Christie h/t), Mawson, Chambers, Seri (Johansen 60), Cairney, Schürrle (Kebano 76), Kamara, Mitrović. Unused subs: Bettinelli, Ayité, Vietto, Cisse.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Diop, Balbuena, Noble (Obiang 60), Rice, Snodgrass, Anderson, Antonio (Diangana 85), Hernández (Carroll 72). Unused subs: Adrián, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Silva.
Booked: Noble (39), Seri (41), Johansen (89).
Referee: Mike Dean.