This was a good game until the 90th minute and an exceptional one thereafter. Still 0-0 going into four added minutes, West Ham had time to score a well-worked goal, concede a poor penalty and then watch as Ademola Lookman took a truly awful penalty to blow Fulham’s chance of a point with the last kick of the match.
West Ham move up to 11th with the win, courtesy of Tomas Soucek’s slammed sidefoot finish from a Said Benrahma cutback. The new Hammers signing, making his home debut, then nipped at the toe of Tom Cairney in the box with just seconds remaining of the game. After a long interaction with VAR a spot kick was awarded and Lookman stepped up to take. He chipped a Panenka so bad that it barely had enough power to bounce off the chest of Lukasz Fabianski. There were cheers and laughter, even in an empty stadium.
It is tempting to read too much into this result and so let’s do that. West Ham’s recent run of exemplary form has come from sticking it to the big boys. Standing tall, playing tough and sticking to a plan. Against Fulham, for long stretches, it looked like something else was required as the visitors – boosted by their first win of the season on Monday night – played with confidence and more verve than their opponents.
In the end, however, West Ham did find that little extra, when David Moyes brought on Benrahma with around 20 minutes of the match remaining. He replaced Pablo Fornals, who has technical ability, but not the x-factor with the ball at his feet that the Algerian showed for so long with Brentford.
Benrahma jinked his way into the area to force a double save with minutes of normal time remaining. Then when the Hammers were given one last opportunity to play their way through the spaces of a retreating Fulham defence, Benrahma found the right touches to let Soucek apply the finish.
Moyes expressed solidarity with his opposite number after Scott Parker complained about the lack of an offside call against Sébastien Haller in the buildup to the goal
“If I was Scott Parker I’d be really disappointed. I think the whole offside rule, where they’re delaying the flag, it’s a terrible rule‚“ he said.
Despite criticising his team’s play, however, Moyes was pleased with a victory that could teach an important lesson in resilience.
“We stuck at it tonight and got the result,” he said. “We were given a task to win in a different way, we tried but didn’t pass or cross the ball well enough, our build-up was slower than we would have liked and they’re all things we have to improve. Let’s hope this is not the flaky West Ham of old.”
For Fulham there were lessons in that dreadful final moment too. Lookman was as bright a light as any in white on the night, but his ability is not always matched by his decision making. This was a charge that could be levelled at others in the team too, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa a case in point. Both players have the qualities to be valuable weapons in Fulham’s fight against relegation but to make that reality that may need to take a leaf out of the pared-back, efficient West Ham that narrowly edged them out here.
“The boy has made a mistake, that’s clear‚” said Parker of Lookman. “You can miss a penalty, but you can’t miss a penalty like that. He knows that. When you’re young you have to learn quick.
“At the moment it’s so raw, my emotions are of disappointment, and anger a bit. Addy is a young player and he’s been fantastic since he’s been here. He’s got to learn from tonight, but he’s not going to hide from that. I’ve not got an issue with missing a penalty, but when you decide to take it like that you put yourself right on show.”
West Ham had started brightly and could have taken the lead when Jarrod Bowen’s deflected strike hit the Fulham crossbar but the visitors improved in the second half before the late drama left them agonised and empty-handed.