- Fulham vs West Ham

Wednesday 1 January 2014 | Craven Cottage | Referee: Mark Clattenburg | Attendance 25,335

Fulham
  • Steve Sidwell (32)
  • Dimitar Berbatov (66)
Fulham
2 - 1
West Ham
  • Mohamed Diamé (7)
West Ham

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Match report

Striker Dimitar Berbatov marked his return to action with the winning goal as Fulham grabbed a vital victory over 10-man West Ham United.

The Bulgarian, who missed the last three matches with a groin injury, popped up midway through the second half with a trademark predatory finish from close range, after Steve Sidwell's header had cancelled out Mohamed Diame's early opener.

Kevin Nolan was sent off when he kicked out at Fernando Amorebieta several minutes before half-time in what was disappointing start to 2014 for the visitors.

Berbatov, 32, was one of seven changes made from the side beaten 6-0 by Hull City in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday, with Adel Taarabt also making a return.

An injury-hit West Ham came into this contest without a recognised central defender, forcing manager Sam Allardyce into six changes to the side that drew to West Bromwich Albion.

The Hammers took the lead after only seven minutes, when a hopeful route one ball from Jussi Jaaskelainen was cleared as far as Diame, who duly slotted home from inside the box.

John Arne Riise nearly levelled things just over 10 minutes later but his crashing 25-yard drive whistled just past the post.

The home side remained vulnerable at the back and could have been further behind after 23 minutes were it not for a superb save from David Stockdale to keep out a Nolan header at the far post.

But Fulham still managed to create chances, with Berbatov forcing a smart save from Jaaskelainen and Amorebieta having a header cleared off the line.

Their pressure paid off just after half an hour, when Sidwell broke free of his man to head home a Damien Duff corner. And a minute later, the hosts could have been in front when Taarabt rattled the post after some good work from Kieran Richardson.

Things soon got worse for the visitors as Mark Noble limped off with a suspected calf strain, before Nolan was shown a straight red for an off-the-ball incident with Amorebieta just before the break.

The hosts predictably began the second half with a spring in their step, with Riise having the best of an early flurry of chances, racing away down the left before forcing a strong save from Jaaskelainen at the near post.

Taarabt should have given his side the lead after 60 minutes, first forcing Jaaskelainen to tip a glanced header onto the post, before being denied again with the rebound thanks to a terrific save from close range.

Five minutes later, though, and Fulham were ahead after a low Alexander Kacaniklic cross fell fortunately to Berbatov at the far post, who was left with a simple finish.

Substitute Darren Bent nearly added a third five minutes later, bursting through the defence before being denied by the goalkeeper.

West Ham went close to an equaliser late on but Stewart Downing's low drive went just wide as Fulham held on for a sixth win of the season, while the visitors are now winless in seven.

Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen: "That's what you call a happy New Year. We all know that when you're in our position, home games are very important. I thought we played well. Taking into account the conditions, you need to concentrate and play with slick passing. To concede an early goal like that obviously wasn't in the plans but I thought we reacted well.

"We deserved the equaliser and I was hoping we might get even more out of that first half. The sending off helped us because you get more space and more possession but you have to find the right balance between being patient and creating chances. Eventually we did and if Darren Bent had put that late chance away it would have been 3-1 and game over.

"At 2-1 they obviously thought they still had a chance – they put a few balls into the mixer but we dealt well with it. Credit to the players, that’s where experience kicks in. But we made a lot of chances and the points were well deserved."

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "Our captain [Kevin Nolan] was irresponsible today – not just for today but for the future because he is suspended. He's let everyone down and himself. That was a turning point.

"Kevin is an experienced player and I'm surprised because he had a silly challenge at Liverpool. That's two in the space of the month now. It's not something I will allow to happen.

"We have to rally round now. We only have a few players to select from so losing Kevin and Mark Noble, who is injured, is a massive blow."

Fan Rating

- rate the player performances for this match

Line-up All Fans BFR
13. David Stockdale 4.0 3.98
35. Fernando Amorebieta 4.0 3.53
27. Sascha Riether 5.0 4.77
3. John Arne Riise 4.25 4.65
4. Philippe Senderos 2.75 3.92
16. Damien Duff 5.0 4.29
7. Steve Sidwell 6.0 4.95
19. Adel Taarabt 5.25 5.32
28. Scott Parker 5.0 4.68
15. Kieran Richardson 2.67 4.21
9. Dimitar Berbatov 6.2 5.47
Substitutes All Fans BFR
8. Pajtim Kasami 3.33 5.16
39. Darren Bent 2.0 5.65
11. Alexander Kacaniklic 3.0 4.21
45. Moussa Dembele 0.5 1.67
18. Aaron Hughes 3.0 4.1
40. Marcus Bettinelli 0.5 2.75
24. Ashkan Dejagah 6.5 4.76
Line-up All Fans BFR
22. Jussi Jääskeläinen 6.5 6.1
17. Joey O'Brien 4.0 4.5
3. George McCartney 2.67 4.17
18. Alou Diarra 3.0 4.56
20. Guy Demel 3.33 4.68
14. Matthew Taylor 4.67 4.25
16. Mark Noble 3.33 5.64
4. Kevin Nolan 1.75 6.15
10. Jack Collison 4.67 3.95
21. Mohamed Diamé 6.0 5.35
11. Modibo Maiga 3.33 4.25
Substitutes All Fans BFR
24. Carlton Cole 0.5 5.11
27. Daniel Potts 10.0 3.33
13. Adrián 6.0 5.11
26. Joe Cole 7.0 5.85
23. Stewart Downing 4.33 5.35
7. Matthew Jarvis 2.5 4.84
8. Razvan Rat 5.0 5.11

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