A horrible blunder by David Button condemned Fulham to defeat at the hands of London rivals West Ham in the first friendly of their mini pre-season tour to Austria tonight.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side looked leggy and jittery in defence against top flight opposition, who will soon be strengthened by the signing of Javier Hernandez that was announced shortly before the kick-off in Graz. Centre back Marcelo Djalo, brought in from Spanish second division side CD Lugo, saw plenty of the ball but failed to convince at the heart of the Fulham defence, giving the ball away on a number of occasions and proving culpable for West Ham’s opener. Djalo let Manuel Lanzini far too easily on the edge of the box and he beat Button with a crisp finish.
Fulham were forced into an earlier than expected defensive reshuffle when Ragnar Sigurdsson limped off midway through the first half with what looked like a knee injury, but they were playing some eye-catching football at the other end of the field. A flowing move saw Floyd Ayite do superbly down the left flank only for Darren Randolph to deny stand-in skipper Sone Aluko with a superb reaction save from close range.
It appeared as though Fulham hadn’t heeded the lesson from Lanzini’s opening goal as the Hammers’ creative hub was afforded far too much time and space on the edge of the area once again and this time curled an effort just wide of goal. The Hammers played the more complete football, imposing their class on the contest and looking relaxed in possession, although both summer signing Ibrahima Cisse and Tayo Edun, just back from winning the European Under-19 Championships with England in Georgia, looked impressive at the base of Jokanovic’s midfield.
Lone striker Cauley Woodrow was starved of service and squandered his only real opening early in the first half – but Fulham would have counted themselves exceedingly unfortunate to go in two goals down at the break. It owed much to another catastrophic error from Button, who appeared oblivious to the close proximity of Ashley Fletcher as he gathered a backpass, t0ok a heavy touch on the edge of the area and surrendered possession to the former Manchester United trainee, who tucked the loose ball into the unguarded net. Button appealed in vain for a foul and, while the tackle might have been penalised in a competitive fixture, without his carelessness – which reminded this correspondent of that dreadful night at Derby last season – the situation would not have arisen.
West Ham made ten changes at the break and the pattern of the first period – a slow, possession-heavy warm-up game – remained, although Fulham were much improved following the half-time introduction of Kevin McDonald. There were some promising touches from the excellent Matt O’Riley in central midfield, including one glorious raking pass that opened up West Ham’s defence, and the Championship side did eventually put some pressure on Adrian’s goal. Floyd Ayite fired a shot wide from the edge of the box, before Woodrow drilled an effort on goal that Adrian spilled initially.
The much-changed Premier League side were keen to see out the contest, but Fulham kept pressing forward. Cisse miscued a volley, but it was a forward surge from Ryan Sessegnon, by now showing his versatility by deputising at right back, that gave new life to the contest with ten minutes to play. Sessegnon surged onto a forward ball from Sone Aluko and slide across goal for Woodrow to guide into the far corner. Jokanovic will have been pleased with how his charges finished the contest strongly – with plenty of fitness gained ahead of Saturday’s second game against Sturm Graz.
WEST HAM UNITED (4-2-3-1): Randolph (Adrian 45); Byram (Zabaleta 45), Cresswell (Masuaku 45), Rice (Collins 45), Ogbonna (Burke 45); Cullen (Makasi 77), Lanzini (Noble 45); Makasi (Snodgrass 45), Feghouli (Obiang 45), Holland (Ayez 45); Fletcher (Martinez 45). Sub (not used): Anang.
GOALS: Lanzini (14), Fletcher (40).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Button, Fredericks (Opoku 75), Opoku (R. Sessegnon 45), Djalo, Sigurdsson (Ream 23); Cisse (McDonald 45), Edun (Piazon 88); Piazon (Aluko 75), Aluko (O’Riley 45), Ayite (Cisse 75), Woodrow. Subs (not used): Rodak, Johansen.
GOAL: Woodrow (81).