Fulham leapfrogged West Ham United into 12th place in the Premier League after a 3-1 win at Craven Cottage.
Dimitar Berbatov netted a controversial opener for the hosts in the first half as the Bulgarian converted Damien Duff’s free-kick from an offside position.
Kevin Nolan responded for the visitors just three minutes into the second half before Hugo Rodallega restored Fulham's lead 33 seconds later.
West Ham pushed for an equaliser but were caught short at the back as substitute Mladen Petric’s effort ricocheted off the post into the arm of the unfortunate Joey O’Brien who bundled the ball into the back of his own net.
The game started off in a frantic pace with both sides looking shaky at the back but seemingly happy to go forward in numbers.
The hosts were the first side to go close through Bryan Ruiz. Giorgos Karagounis ventured deep into the West Ham half before being pulled down 30 yards from goal. Referee Chris Foy allowed Fulham the advantage as Costa Rican Ruiz collected the ball before turning on a sixpence and firing a wicked effort on target. It was hit with real venom but Jussi Jaaskelainen was able to get his body behind the ball and beat it away to safety.
Three minutes later and the home side were in front in controversial fashion. Duff whipped in a devilish ball from a set-piece which the visiting defence failed to cope with. The ball bounced on the penalty spot, evading every single West Ham defender, on its way towards the far post where Berbatov was able to nod home from close range.
However, replays showed that the Bulgarian was offside as Duff sent in the ball. The flag stayed down, though, and the Fulham striker was allowed to celebrate the goal on his 32nd birthday.
The strike seemed to spur the Hammers on as they eventually settled into the game and were able to string a few passes together.
Matt Jarvis was presented with the first half-chance of the night for the visitors following some neat link-up play between Joe Cole and Guy Demel down the right flank. The latter’s centre from the by-line was met by Jarvis, who had the better of right-back Sascha Riether for the only occasion of the night, but the winger was unable to get his head over the ball, sending his effort over the bar.
Duff then shot fractionally wide of the right-hand post from the edge of the area after a smart move that saw Rodallega and Berbatov trade a clever one-two. The Irishman skipped inside of Demel and fired at goal past the beaten Jaaskelainen, who was relieved to see the ball flash inches past the post.
The second half exploded into life as the Hammers came racing out of the blocks, drawing level within three minutes.
Matt Jarvis took a quick free-kick from the left flank, feeding Nolan into the Fulham penalty area. Berbatov's attempt at marking the West Ham captain was non-existent which allowed for the former Bolton and Newcastle man to advance on goal and smash a low drive past the stationary Schwarzer.
The players and fans barely had time to settle down after the equaliser before the next goal went in. Straight from the kick-off Fulham went down the other end and pulled in front again.
Duff, who had been busy down the left all evening, skipped past Demel to produce a wonderful centre. It was sent onto the edge of the six-yard box but was too dangerous for Jaaskelainen to deal with, allowing Rodallega to attack the ball and firmly header into the back of the net.
From there on in the game continued to ebb and flow, with both sides looking for a further goal.
Andy Carroll, sporting a new hairstyle, minus ponytail, was introduced and fizzed a wicked volley into the arms of the grateful Schwarzer just seconds after coming on.
Fulham substitute Petric then should have squared the ball to Duff who was unmarked at the far post but opted to selfishly shoot from distance.
The Hammers searched for an equaliser but were pegged further back in stoppage time as Rodallega forced Jaaskelainen into a smart save. Petric was quickest to follow up and attempted a cheeky dink over the prone goalkeeper but the effort ricocheted off the near post and into the arm of O’Brien who could do nothing other than divert it into his own net.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Sascha Riether - Fulham: It’s rare that a full-back gets a man of the match award, but Riether was excellent throughout the whole game. Riether showed a cool head at the back, excellent footwork when required and a desire to get forward.
FULHAM: Schwarzer 5; Riether 8, Hangeland 6, Senderos 5, Riise 5; Duff 7, Karagounis 4, Sidwell 5, Rodallega 7; Ruiz 6, Berbatov 7. Subs: Baird 3, Petric 6, Dejagah 6.
WEST HAM: Jaaskelainen 6; Demel 6, Reid4, Tomkins4, O'Brien 5; Diame 6, Noble 5, Nolan 7; Jarvis 6, Chamakh 4, J Cole 7. Subs: Carroll 7, C Cole 4, Taylor 4.
- Sports & Recreation
- West Ham United
- Damien Duff
- Dimitar Berbatov
- Sascha Riether