Kanu rescued a point for West Brom as nine-man Fulham came within two minutes of leaving the Hawthorns with all three points in a tempestuous encounter. The Nigerian striker pounced towards the end of a rancorous affair which saw three red cards, a mass brawl, ill-feeling between the two benches and a missed penalty.
Fulham, still simmering after Mark Halsey’s decisions cost them at least a point against Arsenal last weekend, were reduced to ten men when Papa Bouba Diop was dismissed for lashing out at Thomas Gaardsoe. The visitors kept their composure and went ahead shortly afterwards when Cole tapped home from close range. Fulham’s goalscorer was then sent off for his reaction to Neil Clement’s wild lunge at Luis Boa Morte as the Portugese winger bore down on goal. Mike Dean immediately showed the Baggies left-back a red card but a flare-up that involved almost every player threatened end the referee’s control of the contest.
The gripping game had one more twist as Gary Megson’s side eventually made their numerical advantage pay with Kanu heading home Jason Koumas’ corner with just two minutes to play. The West Brom could be forgiven for breathing a big sigh of relief after coming close to losing his job during a week of intrigue in the Midlands.
There was drama before the kick off as Megson, fresh from a public spat with chairman Jeremy Peace, had to hand a debut to Tomasz Kusczak after Russell Hoult fell ill. The young goalkeeper looked a bag of nerves and spilled Collins John’s header into his own net, but was saved by Mike Dean penalising the Dutch striker for a push. The Baggies had the better of the first period with Robert Earnshaw coming close on two occasions, but the Welsh striker failed from twelve yards with Edwin van der Sar saving his spot-kick on the stroke of half time after Moritz Volz was adjudged to have handled.
Fulham, whose threat was sporadic in the first half with Cole coming closest, were enlivened when Chris Coleman introduced Tomasz Radzinski just before the hour mark. The Canadian almost scored with his first touch, glancing Sylvain Legwinski’s cross just wide of the far post. A dreary game exploded into life when Diop and Gaardsoe grabbled at a corner – leaving referee Dean with his hands, and notebook, full.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Kuszczak, Scimeca, Gaardsoe, Purse, Robinson (Albrechtsen 25); , Albrechtsen (Gera 72), Koumas, Johnson (Dyer 66), Clement, Greening; Kanu, Earnshaw. Subs (not used): Murphy, Horsfield.
BOOKED: Purse, Clement.
SENT OFF: Clement (84).
GOAL: Kanu (88).
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Green, Knight, Pearce; Diop, Legwinski, Pembridge; John (Radzinski 57), Boa Morte, Cole. Subs (not used): Crossley, Goma, Malbranque, McBride.
BOOKED: John, van der Sar, Green, Knight, Legwinski.
SENT OFF: Diop, Cole.
GOAL: Cole (72).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirral).