Sunday, 26 December 2010

Fulham 1 West Ham 3 :match report


Carlton Cole scored a Premier League brace for the first time to earn West Ham their first away win of the season while heaping more pressure on Fulham.
The Cottagers took the lead when Aaron Hughes headed home Simon Davies' cross but Cole pounced on Dickson Etuhu's error to level.
Frederic Piquionne's volley gave the Hammers a lead they did not deserve.
But the visitors improved after the break and sealed the win through Cole's smart left-foot volley.
Cole's display continued what is something of a renaissance for the striker. He has been in and out of the Hammers' side this season, but has now scored braces twice in a month having previously gone eight years without managing the feat.
However his previous two-goal efforts both came in the League Cup and while the recent victory against Manchester United was welcome it pales into insignificance compared to the importance of a league win vital for all manner of reasons.
Not only was it the Hammers' first away win this season, or indeed since last August, it might also buy manager Avram Grant some breathing space, the Israeli having previously been told he had to win one of club's matchers over the festive period.
But while West Ham can approach the remainder of the season with renewed confidence, for Fulham the problems only increase. Again they looked neat in possession and would have won comfortably had they been able to call on an in-form striker. Instead they could find themselves in the bottom three come this evening.
In short, Cole was the difference between two sides that went into the match having only won two league games this season - the worst record in the Premier League.
In Danny Murphy Fulham had the player with the most guile and composure on the pitch, but they lacked the players to take advantage of his probing.
However it all looked set to end so differently when Fulham took a deserved lead.
Carlos Salcido advanced on a sharp crossfield Murphy pass and although his shot was palmed behind the resultant corner led to the ball being fed back to Simon Davies whose left-footed cross was powered home by Hughes.
With more of a cutting edge Fulham would then have proceeded to put the game safe with a number of good chances created and spurned.
Andrew Johnson, yet to regain full sharpness after a lengthy spell out, was the prime culprit, the striker fluffing his shot when unmarked eight yards out following Davies' low cross.
Clint Dempsey was also twice close to connecting with crosses while the lively Davies jinked inside before firing a left-foot shot over.
Normally a spate of missed chances creates the impression that the other team will punish the profligacy but so disjointed were the Hammers that any talk of an equaliser seemed fanciful.
However Avram Grant's side were to get a huge helping hand as Freddie Sears, struggling to get into the game on his return to the Premier League after a spell with Scunthorpe, sent in an aimless cross that Etuhu waved a leg at, deflecting straight into the path of Cole, the England striker making no mistake from 10 yards.
Cole was then thwarted by Mark Schwarzer when played clean through but the miss was not to matter as from the resultant corner the ball was returned to Parker whose cross was neatly volleyed home by Piquionne.
Although Fulham would have told themselves they were the better team at half-time falling behind appeared to hit their confidence every bit as much as it boosted the resurgent Cole.
On 52 minutes he took a moment too long when he could have shot and 10 minutes later he was bustled away when trying to close on a Parker cross but he was not to be denied for long.
His second combined all the qualities he is known to possess yet displays too rarely. He showed strength to force his way on to Daniel Gabbidon's punt into the box and then awareness and technique to score with a neat left-foot volley on the turn.
Fulham had a chance to hit back immediately but were denied by a superb save from the returning Robert Green, the England international flinging his right hand upwards to deflect substitute Eddie Johnson's shot over.
That miss was to sum up a miserable afternoon for Fulham boss Mark Hughes and with no more chances forthcoming the Cottagers boss must now fear he will be on the end of an ultimatum similar to the one delivered to Grant only a few weeks ago.

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