Nolberto Solano scored a late winner shrouded in controversy as West Ham edged past struggling Fulham in a dire London derby.
Solano’s winner infuriated Roy Hodgson. “It’s a clear foul and the goal should have been disallowed. When you go in with studs up in the goalkeeper’s face, you’re very lucky if the referee says it’s a correct goal,” said the Fulham manager. The Peruvian winger certainly clattered into Antti Niemi, who had the cuts to his face and an injured shoulder afterwards to prove it. Not only might the goal had been ruled out for a foul on the Fulham goalkeeper but the ball also appeared to come off Solano’s arm. The home side were enraged and Leon Andreasen was sent off for telling Howard Webb exactly what he thought of the decision to award the goal.
Hodgson felt it was an even game and that Fulham had fought for a point that had been unfairly prised away. But there wasn’t much invention from his workmanlike side. West Ham had more of the chances, especially in the first twenty minutes, when it seemed like Alan Curbishley’s side could make light work of their hosts. Carlton Cole extended Niemi with an early volley and then grazed the crossbar after reaching a flick-on from Julien Faubert.
Luis Boa Morte could have grabbed a goal against his former employers but the Portuguese winger sent a free header against the crossbar. Fulham eventually stemmed the flow of visiting attacks but struggled for penetration of their own. Brian McBride made his first start since that horrific knee injury against Middlesbrough in August, but the American looked well short of match fitness, and could only fire straight at Rob Green.
Howard Webb turned down two optimistic appeals for handball against West Ham defenders before Brede Hangeland headed a Bullard corner over the bar. An errant backpass from Aaron Hughes caused a heartstopping moment for Niemi, but the Finnish goalkeeper managed to clear in the nick of time. Fulham might have won it just before all the controversy but Bullard, racing onto a perceptive pass from Andreasen, was bravely denied by Green, who had left his line to smother at the midfielder’s feet.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Niemi; Stalteri, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Andreasen, Bullard, Murphy, Dempsey (Johnson 76), Kamara; McBride. Subs (not used): Keller, Bocanegra, Smertin, Nevland.
BOOKED: Murphy, Hangeland, Andreasen.
SENT OFF: Andreasen.
WEST HAM UNITED (4-4-2): Green; Neill, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney; Ljungberg (Spector 90), Mullins, Faubert (Solano 63), Noble; Boa Morte, Cole (Ashton 80). Subs (not used): Wright, Pantsil.
GOAL: Solano (87).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).