|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Javier Hernández on hand as West Ham recover from early blow to beat Fulham
Nick Miller at the London Stadium
Date Published Fri 22 Feb 2019 21.44 GMT
Fulham have only themselves to blame for their season, confused decision-making and erratic management probably sending them straight back to the Championship. But on this one occasion they can feel genuinely aggrieved that their fate was unfairly decided by someone else.
They were ahead and playing well against West Ham, when Javier Hernández punched home a goal and changed the course of a game that ended in defeat for Claudio Ranieri’s side.
Ranieri was furious at the time but later was more sanguine about Lee Mason’s failure to spot the offence. “It’s too easy to say yes,” he said, when asked if the handball had affected the outcome. “After the equaliser West Ham increased their confidence, and we were a little scared. It was a big pity the referee was covered [unsighted].”
Replays seemed to show Mason had a good view of the incident but the referee was far from the only one to miss it: only a couple of Fulham players protested and it did take four or five replays to be 100% sure the touch came from hand rather than head. Still, perhaps the forward’s guilty glance like a child with his hand in the sweet tin might have been proof enough. “Only he knows the truth,” said Ranieri, smiling ruefully.
It had all started so well. Ryan Babel gave Fulham the lead in the third minute, sweeping home after a low Ryan Sessegnon cross fell perfectly in the six-yard box, and for about 20 minutes Fulham were purposeful, strong and in control. It felt strange. It felt like it could not last, although legally speaking it should have. The controversial equaliser came from a Robert Snodgrass corner, improperly cleared and turned in at the far post. Just before the break West Ham were ahead, again from a Snodgrass corner but this time it was fair, Issa Diop given all the time and space he needed to batter a close-ranger header past Sergio Rico.
Fulham were slightly the better team after half-time but as Ranieri said that did not translate into many real chances. The home crowd was roused first by the return of Manuel Lanzini, on as a substitute after missing the season to date with a cruciate ligament injury, and then West Ham’s third goalin the final moments, Michail Antonio bouncing a header in from a Marko Arnautovic cross.
It was West Ham’s first win in six weeks, gratefully received even if the performance was not dazzling. “After those 10 strange minutes [at the start] we dominated the game,” Manuel Pellegrini said. “It was a good performance.”
For Ranieri and Fulham, who are eight points from safety, time is running out. “It’ll be a miracle [to survive] but we must fight together,” he said. “I believe in my players. They lack experience but they have a very big heart. We have to believe that something will change.”
MATCH FACTS AND LIVE PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
West Ham: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Rice, Snodgrass, Antonio, Hernandez, Felipe Anderson.
Subs not used: Arnautovic, Carroll, Lanzini, Adrian, Obiang, Nasri, Fredericks.
Goals: Hernandez 29, Diop 40, Antonio 90
Yellow cards: Lanzini
Fulham: Sergio Rico, Odoi, Nordtveit, Ream, Bryan, Chambers, Seri, Babel, Cairney, Ryan Sessegnon, Mitrovic.
Subs: Ayite, Vietto, Le Marchand, Christie, Zambo, Markovic, Ramirez.
Goals: Babel 3
Yellow cards: Bryan
Referee: Lee Mason