Sunday, February 25, 2024

West Ham beat Fulham 3-1

West Ham United shrugged off the impending departure of Craig Bellamy to conclude Fulham’s nine-match unbeaten Barclays Premier League run in emphatic style.
Bellamy’s replacement in the starting line-up, David di Michele, capitalised on an error by John Pantsil to give the Hammers an early lead.
A magnificent 30-yard strike from Paul Konchesky against his former club levelled the score but the Fulham left-back then hacked down Carlton Cole, allowing Mark Noble to pounce from the spot.
The impressive Cole completed the rout when he combined with Di Michele in the 76th minute, ensuring West Ham’s fifth game without defeat and their fourth successive victory over Fulham.
It was a lifeless match but the Hammers will be satisfied with a victory delivered against the backdrop of the latest controversy in Bellamy’s career.
Bellamy reportedly refused to play for the club on Friday after the Hammers denied him permission to talk to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Wales striker, the subject of bids from Spurs and Manchester City, was offered a new contract but rejected the offer and stormed out of the training ground.
When Gianfranco Zola named his matchday squad for Fulham, Bellamy’s name was missing – a move that would appear to signal the end of the 29-year-old’s ill-fated 18-month spell in east London.
Even missing their star striker, West Ham had enough to dispatch a side that arrived at Upton Park seeking to establish a new unbeaten Premier League club record.
Instead, former Hammers defenders Pantsil and Konchesky handed their one-time employers victory on a plate.
There was little sign of the defensive wobbles to come as Pantsil expertly dealt with a lofted pass from Lucas Neill to Carlton Cole at the far post.
But Pantsil soon blotted his copybook as he quickly turned from hero to villain in the seventh minute.
Neill produced an innocuous-looking cross that Pantsil should have dispatched into the stands, but instead opting to casually chest it down into the six-yard box. The alert Di Michele spotted the chance and immediately darted in behind the stranded Pantsil, passing keeper Mark Schwarzer and finishing from close range.
Fulham had not conceded an away goal in the league for their last four games but their defence looked increasingly fragile as West Ham probed for a second.
The Hammers’ dominance left Upton Park stunned as the next goal went in against the run of play – scored by their former left-back Konchesky.
Fulham defender Konchesky, having found room to manoeuvre out wide, looked up and unleashed a magnificent 25-yard drive past Robert Green that beat the keeper at the near post.
Normal service resumed after Konchesky had silenced the home fans with West Ham dominating territory and possession.
Di Michele had the ball in the net in the 50th minute following an expert strike but he was correctly adjudged offside.
Bobby Zamora blazed over the crossbar from five yards out as Fulham produced their most incisive passage of play so far in the game.
But just as the Cottagers appeared to be gaining the ascendancy, disaster struck as Konchesky conceded a 59th minute penalty.
The former England full-back was caught dithering as the last line of defence, allowing Carlton Cole to sneak in and steel the ball from his feet.
Cole burst free into the box and Konchesky hacked him down from behind, resulting in an immediate penalty from referee Phil Dowd.
Noble slotted home the spot-kick and West Ham nearly extended their lead a heartbeat later as Cole’s powerful shot whistled inches wide of the left post.
West Ham ended the contest with 15 minutes to go, Di Michele capitalising on more hesitation in Fulham’s defence by Dickson Etuhu to set up Cole.

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