Heidar Helguson and Collins John both bagged braces as Fulham hammered West Brom 6-1 in a scintilating display at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The Icelandic international claimed a hat-trick but will faces an anxious wait to see whether the Premier League’s dubious goals panel takes his goal away after his shot took a hefty deflection off Albion defender Curtis Davies. Given that his initial effort looked like it was heading wide of goal, Helguson might have to make do with his pair of predatory first-half finishes that completely knocked the stuffing of a woeful West Brom.
This was a fine display of peerless finishing from Fulham’s forwards, although they were helped by some utterly abysmal Albion defending. Helguson got the ball rolling in the fourth minute when Antti Niemi’s long kick was flicked on by Brian McBride and the former Watford forward advanced into the penalty area before finishing with aplomb. Carlos Bocanegra almost doubled the lead from Fulham’s very next attack but he headed wide from Simon Elliott’s corner.
Nigel Quashie and former Fulham midfielder Junichi Inamoto initially showed signs of winning the midfield battle and the former QPR midfielder tested Niemi twice in quick succession but the Finnish goalkeeper’s handling proved immaculate. Fulham quickly reasserted themselves as McBride went close with a glancing header and they went further ahead after the visitors failed to mark properly once Martin Albrechtsen brought down Luis Boa Morte. Helguson climbed highest at the back post to head Elliott’s delivery into the top corner.
It took just three minutes of the second half for the hosts to make it three. Tomasz Radzinski ended his three-month scoreless streak by lifting a lovely finish over the helpless Thomas Kuszczak after Steed Malbranque had floated a gorgeous through ball behind the West Brom defence. The visitors rallied briefly with Kevin Campbell coming agonisingly close to pulling a goal back with a curler from the edge of the area and then Albretchsen crashed a finish into the side netting from a tight angle.
But Albion’s resilience was cracked by a superb counter attack led by Malbranque just before the hour. The French midfielder showcased his dribbling ability by carrying the ball clear from a dicey defensive situation before feeding Radzinski on the right. The former Everton forward was allowed to travel thirty yards down the ring before picking out Helguson whose shot struck Davies, wrongfooting Kuszczak horribly and ended up in the other corner of the goal.
Three minutes later Albrechtsen sent a right-foot effort into the side-netting from an acute angle as Albion, for the first time in the contest, looked as though they wanted to make a fight of it.
Bryan Robson immediately withdrew the injured Kuszczak but Russell Hoult fared no better. John poached a couple of goals in the closing stages either side of Kevin Campbell’s consolation for Albion – first touching home from a fine Radzinski cross and then, driving in from twelve yards after another Radzinski assist.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Volz, Bridge, Knight, Bocanegra; Elliott, Malbranque, Radzinski, Boa Morte; McBride, Helguson (John 64). Subs (not used): Warner, Goma, N. Jensen, Legwinski.
BOOKED: Radzinski, Helguson, Boa Morte.
GOALS: Helguson (4, 40), Radzinski (48), Davies (o.g. 58), John (83, 89).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Kuszczak (Hoult 61); Albrechtsen, C. Davies, Gaardsoe (Martinez 45), Clement; Inamoto, Wallwork, Quashie, Greening; Campbell, Horsfield (Ellington 45). Subs (not used): Kozak, Carter.
BOOKED: Wallwork, Martinez.
GOAL: Campbell (85).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Hertfordshire).