West Bromwich Albion surged up the early Premier League table after coming from behind to defeat a feckless Fulham side at the Hawthorns this afternoon.
Albion endured early misfortune when England goalkeeper Scott Carson did exceptionally well to divert former Baggie Zoltan Gera’s shot onto the post – only for the ball to rebound into the net off his body after it cannoned off the woodwork. The home crowd didn’t have to wait too long for an equaliser – which came courtesy of Youssouf Mulumbu – and Marco-Antoine Fortune turned the game around completely five minutes before half-time.
Albion are now on a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions as their superb start to the campaign continues. Mark Hughes, however, has endured a trying start to the new season. The Whites haven’t won away from since last August – and, in truth, despite taking the lead they didn’t look like ending that dismal run this afternoon. It was the hosts who were quicker out of the blocks with Chris Brunt’s low free-kick testing the reflexes of Mark Schwarzer. Jonas Olsson nodded wide when left unattended at a corner, whilst a sighter from Clint Dempsey was the sum total of Fulham’s threat.
It was a surprise, therefore, when the Whites hit the front after nine minutes. The mercurial Mousa Dembele found Gera in space and the Hungarian needed no second invitation to pull the trigger. Gera, a popular figure in these parts for his classy contributions in Albion’s promotion back to the top flight, didn’t celebrate and looked genuinely embarassed, although the actual player who wanted the Hawthorns’ pitch to swallow him up was the blameless goalkeeper.
Another former Albion attacker, Diomansy Kamara, should have doubled Fulham’s lead a couple of minutes later. The Senegalese striker narrowly missed the target after latching onto a superb Murphy ball and the visitors were soon to made to pay for such prolificacy. The bright Brunt was the architect of the hosts’ leveller, opening up the Cottagers’ back line with a beautiful ball. It actually evaded Fortune but Mulumbu was on hand to sweep it beyond Schwarzer.
The goal totally galvanised West Brom. Brede Hangeland uncharacteristically lost the ball in his own final third but made amends by dispossessing Jerome Thomas before Olsson saw his header from a set-play scrambled off the goalline by Stephen Kelly. Albion went ahead with five minutes when Thomas took advantage from the away side, picking out Fortune, who stroked a measured finish beyond a stranded Schwarzer. The hosts could have even been 3-1 up by the break, but James Morrison shot wildly wide and Paul Scharner could only head into the side netting.
The second half followed a similar script. Albion were on the front foot with Fortune and Morrison spurning more good chances, before Gabriel Tamas couldn’t make a telling connection having found himself free at a corner. Bednar had a goal ruled out for offside and even the return of Andrew Johnson – making his first appearance since January – couldn’t rouse Fulham. Morrison slipped at the crucial moment as he went through on Schwarzer, who then saved well from Scharner, and referee Kevin Friend waved away loud home appeals for a penalty area after Stephen Kelly looked to have pulled down Thomas.
Fulham finally began to play with time almost up. Carson came and made a meal of a cross but Tamas hacked the loose ball out of danger. Johnson was inches away from getting on the end of Gera’s cross before Pablo Ibanez did well to prevent the former Crystal Palace and Everton forward from pulling the trigger. There’s a clearly a lot of work ahead for Hughes.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-5-1): Carson; Olsson (Pablo 54), Shorey, Tamas, Jara; Mulumbu, Scharner, Morrison, Thomas (Tchoyi 87), Brunt; Fortune (Bednar 54). Subs (not used): Myhill, Reid, Dorrans, Cox.
GOALS: Mulumbu (17), Fortune (40).
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Kelly, Salcido, Hughes, Hangeland; Baird (Riise 73), Greening, Gera, Dempsey; Dembele; Kamara (A. Johnson 58). Subs (not used): Stockdale, Pantsil, Halliche, Dikagacoi, E. Johnson.
GOAL: Carson (o.g. 9).
REFEREE: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)