For Franck Quedrue on Wednesday, see Philippe Christanval this afternoon. Just like at the Valley before Christmas, Fulham scored five minutes into injury time to rescue a point against a relegation-threatened opponent. This time it was West Ham, who were already down to ten men after Graham Poll’s controversial dismissal of Bobby Zamora, who suffered stoppage-time heartache.
Alan Curbishley could console himself with the fact that the Hammers had at least stopped the rot of three dreadful defeats. Those of a West Ham persuasion would justifiably argue that Poll’s decision to send off Zamora and show eleven cards in what wasn’t a dirty game by any stretch changed the complexion of the contest. Curbishley was convinced that Poll had missed a foul by Moritz Volz on Christian Dailly right before Fulham’s equaliser. Perhaps he should get in touch with his predecessor Alan Pardew, who fumed about the referee’s incorrect awarding of the free-kick that produced Fulham’s leveller in south London.
That there was such a crushing sense of disappointment around Upton Park was understandable. West Ham lost James Collins and Carlos Tevez to injury within the first twelve minutes and were soon behind when Tomasz Radzinski turned home Heider Helguson’s header. That they fought back so manfully will encourage Curbishley that his new charges will be up for the many battles that are to come. Zamora, who scored hundredth league goal, was excellent and the manner of his expulsion – for a second yellow card after a foul on Liam Rosenior seemed harsh.
That the hosts were in a winning position was thanks to the brilliance of Yossi Benayoun. The Israeli midfielder dinked in delightfully at the start of the second half and produced a brilliant second to profit from a Carlos Bocanegra mistake. Those goals came either side of a trademark Brian McBride header that hinted at the Hammers’ defensive vulnerabilities, but they seemed like they would be enough. Benayoun even scrambled another McBride header off the line before we headed into injury time.
The sub-plot of the afternoon had been Luis Boa Morte’s immediate reunion with his former employers. Coleman insisted he wasn’t bitter in the build up but felt the Portuguese winger hadn’t been fully committed to Fulham in the months before his departure. West Ham’s new signing might have made his old boss eat his words but he missed two glorious chances to put the game beyond the visitors.
That meant that Fulham had reason to storm forward once Zamora had been red-carded and their belief in late goals has only been enhanced by a festive period that has seen the Cottagers steal late points at Stamford Bridge, the Valley and now the Boleyn Ground. Fulham sent a series of high balls in the home box and, when a McBride back header bounced inviting for him, Christanval volleyed majestically past Roy Carroll with the all the poise of a centre forward.
WEST HAM UNITED (4-4-2): Carroll; Dailly, Collins (Spector 11), Gabbidon (Newton 81), McCartney; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Quashie, Boa Morte; Cole, Tevez (Zamora 13). Subs (not used): Green, Mullins.
BOOKED: Reo-Cooker, Zamora, Cole.
SENT OFF: Zamora.
GOALS: Zamora (28), Benayoun (46, 64).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lastuvka; Rosenior, Queudrue, Christanval, Bocaengra; Volz, Brown, Routledge, Radzinski; McBride, Helguson (Montella 67). Subs (not used): Warner, Pearce, Omozusi, Runstrom.
BOOKED: Christanval, Queudrue, Rosenior, Helguson, Bocanegra, Routledge.
GOALS: Radzinski (16), McBride (59), Christanval (90).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Hertfordshire).