Fulham’s faltering start to the Premier League season had garnered some momentum following their first win on Monday, but it all ebbed away in a ridiculous end to their London derby at West Ham this evening. Having defended resolutely for ninety minutes, a lack of communication between Joachim Andersen and Ola Aina allowed Thomas Soucek to fire the hosts in front in injury time. When all hope appeared lost, salvation came in the form of a penalty, awarded for Said Benrahma’s felling of Tom Cairney as every Fulham player crowded the box in search of an unlikely equaliser. Aleksandar Mitrovic was demoted from spot-kick duty, having missed one at Sheffield United last month, but Ademola Lookman’s bright start to his Fulham career could be a mere footnote after his pitiful Paneka attempt barely reached the goalline, allowing Lukasz Fabianki the simplest of saves.
As ever, with Fulham, it is the hope that kills you. Lookman looked crestfallen after his ill-judged attempt to outwit the West Ham goalkeeper that meant Scott Parker’s side lost a game they were very much in until the very end. In a season where scrapping for your lives is the order of the day, coughing up three points through two failures from twelve yards is unforgiveable. Mitrovic might have skied his Bramall Lane effort, but the Serbian was surely a better option to take such a high pressure kick?
On such moments can campaigns turn. A furious Parker was already upset that West Ham’s goal had been allowed to stand, arguing that Sebastian Haller was in an offside position when Vladimir Coufal crossed into the box. Andersen, otherwise excellent at the heart of a much more durable Fulham defence, made a hash of a header he might have left, allowing Benrahma to square for Soucek, who had strolled into the box criminally untracked, to drive a low finish past Alphonse Areola.
The visitors had steadied themselves after West Ham had made a fast start and were good value to take something from an even, and intriguing contest. Areola made a smart pair of saves in quick succession to deny Arthur Musuaka from close range and Aaron Creswell from further out after Jarrod Bowen had dispossessed Antonee Robinson. The Fulham goalkeeper made an even better reaction save to tip over a Bowen volley that had deflected off Mitrovic, before Haller headed a presentable opportunity from one of a host of early corners against the crossbar.
Fulham gradually found their poise and pretty passing patterns, but Mitrovic wasn’t quite sharp enough to exploit a pair of probing balls from Tom Cairney and Robinson, who combined effectively with Lookman down the left. He steered a header wide with Fulham’s best chance before the break and berated himself for not doing better after pulling away from Creswell to reach a looping Cairney cross.
The Whites had to endure another early spell of prolonged West Ham pressure after the restart. Areola got the feintest of touches to a venomous Creswell free-kick, even if the referee gave a goalkick. There was another fortunate escape when Bowen pulled the trigger from the edge of the box – this time a wicked deflection left the Fulham keeper stranded but the ball dropped wide of goal.
But, as in the first period, Fulham roused themselves and fashioned a pair of chances to grab a late winner. Lookman lashed an indirect free-kick from the edge of the box straight at Fabianski before a smart break saw Bobby Decordova-Reid’s angled drive test the ex-Arsenal goalkeeper again. Benrahma and Lanzini were given just under twenty minutes to find a winner, with the Algerian international twice denied by Areola at his near post when a cut-back looked a more profitable option. Fulham fluffed a great chance to find a winner themselves when a lightning counter-attack offered Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa the chance to steal in at the back post, but the Cameroon midfielder opted against taking on the first team shot.
At that point, the game looked set to peter out into a tame draw that would have represented a creditable return to one of his former clubs for Parker, but the stoppage time drama means the Fulham boss has another big job on his hands to lift his charges ahead of a tricky fun of fixtures following the international break.
WEST HAM UNITED (3-4-3): Fabianski; Balbuena, Ogbonna (Diop 63), Cresswell; Coufal, Masuaku, Soucek, Rice; Bowen (Lanzini 72), Fornals (Benrahma 72), Haller. Subs (not used): Randolph, Fredericks, Snodgrass, Yarmolenko.
BOOKED: Ogbonna, Diop.
GOAL: Soucek (90+1).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, Robinson, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Reed, Anguissa (Cavaleiro 90+4); Cairney, Decordova-Reid (Loftus-Cheek 82), Lookman; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Ream, Bryan, Hector, Kebano, Cavaleiro.
BOOKED: Mitrovic, Loftus-Cheek.
REFEREE: Rob Jones (Cheshire).