Writer: Ollie Sheehan
Date:Monday January 23 2006
Fulham’s away day blues continued after two tremendous strikes from West Ham gave them the edge in a highly intense encounter at Upton Park.
The first a wonderful 25-yard volley from Anton Ferdinand following a 17th minute corner. Then came a goal of true class from Yossi Benayoun on 28 minutes, as he turned Bocanegra twice before chipping Niemi from twenty yards. It looked as though West Ham had set themselves up for a master-class of competitors for goal of the season at that point.
Fulham were rattled for a few minutes and it looked as though more could be on the way. But Fulham didn’t give up. Malbranque and Knight turned up the heat and battled Fulham back into the game, winning challenges and out-muscling their opponents. Knight was all over the pitch winning headers at both ends but Coleman’s side seemingly just didn’t have enough quality to capitalise.
Fulham really did deserve something out of this match after Roy Carroll denied them countless chances with brilliant saves from McBride, Malbranque, Collins John and Boa Morte all going close.
Games like this are what the Premiership is all about, they are what makes the Premiership the most exciting league in the world. This game had everything. Intense, fast and high-tempo football played end to end from the first minute to the last.
The pace of the game was dictated by Malbranque and Boa Morte tearing forward and nearly producing the opening goal in the first ten minutes of the game. First McBride blasted over after two minutes and then Boa Morte accidentally blocked Helguson’s powerful goalward-bound header from a corner.
But it was not to be for Chris Coleman’s team. The muscle and battling midfield qualities of Bouba Papa Diop were sorely missed, and it was the pace and creativity of Boa Morte and Helguson that kept this game alive up until the half time whistle.
In the second half the game was played at much the same pace, with Malbranque and Bocanegra being hussled and harried by Marlon Harewood throughout. In truth Niemi only had one real save to make in the second half whilst Carroll was kept busy with several outstanding stops.
A rare mistake from Danny Gabbidon missing a headed clearance, allowed Helguson to run through and strike the ball home off the far post. 2-1 and the game was hanging in the balance. West Ham weathered the storm though and then produced a few moments of their own with Niemi saving low from Harewood’s firm strike at goal and Zamora (twice) going close to wrapping the points up.
Fulham in truth were unlucky not to get a penalty, when Paul Konchesky barged into the back of Helguson inside the area when he was through on goal, but the appeals were waved away by Uriah Rennie.
Bobby Zamora, who still looks like he is struggling at the top level, almost managed to seal the game for West Ham but his header crashed against the outside of the post with Niemi nowhere.
The last few minutes saw frustration boil over as first Boa Morte got booked for what looked like a fair challenge before Dailly-on as a substitute- synically brought Boa Morte down when on the counter attack.
The game’s pre-match talking points had been of Tomas Repka’s final game for West Ham and of Wayne Bridge on loan from Chelsea making his debut for Fulham. Tomas Repka had a sound and typically solid game at the back. In comparison Bridge still looks very short of match practise. Besides a few hopeful long balls and lively runs down the left, he looked badly exposed at the back, allowing Benayoun too much time and space on the ball.
But it was to be West Ham’s day. Fulham will just have to wait their turn for the away victory they so need to pull them out of the bottom half of the table. Whilst Bridge will need to improve his game quickly if he wants to feature in Eriksson’s plans. Meanwhile, this game will be remembered for only two things, and unfortunately both of those were goals scored by West Ham.
Date:Monday January 23 2006
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