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Nolan sent off again as West Ham self-destruct at Fulham

Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov scores his side's second goal Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov scores his side's second goal

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
5:39 PM

Premier League: Fulham 2 West Ham United 1

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Fulham's Fernando Amorebieta (right) and West Ham United's Kevin Nolan battle for the ballFulham's Fernando Amorebieta (right) and West Ham United's Kevin Nolan battle for the ball

It proved a miserable start to 2014 for washed-out West Ham United at rain-lashed Craven Cottage, where defeat left Sam Allardyce’s side three points adrift of safety and without a win in their last seven outings.

Although Mohamed Diame gave the Hammers an early lead with his second goal of the campaign, for the third game in succession they then suicidally surrendered their advantage as Steve Sidwell levelled on the half-hour before Dimitar Berbatov snatched victory midway through the second period.

And to make matters worse, West Ham were also forced to play the entire second half with ten men after Kevin Nolan was senselessly sent off for the second time in four games following an off the ball incident with Fernando Amorebieta just before the break.

Ironically, the Hammers last Premier League win had come against Fulham at the end of November but following that 3-0 victory at Upton Park, Allardyce’s side had failed to claim all three points in their next six games.

The Hammers disappointment at losing the lead twice against West Bromwich Albion in Saturday’s 3-3 draw, though, was nothing compared to the Cottagers’ embarrassment at being hit for six second half goals at Hull City.

With his side kicking off in 19th spot, one point and one place adrift of Fulham, Allardyce made five changes as Guy Demel, Alou Diarra, Modibo Maiga, Jack Collison and Matt Taylor came in for the injured James Tomkins (groin) and substitutes Razvan Rat, Carlton Cole, Matt Jarvis and Joe Cole.

Having scored against the Baggies on Saturday, straight from the start an over-enthusiastic Maiga immediately tried his luck with an ambitious 40-yarder that just about made the by-line.

Shortly afterwards, Nolan found himself with just David Stockdale to beat but he shot meekly at the Fulham ‘keeper, who had found himself picking the ball out the net half-a-dozen times during 35 fast and furious minutes at the KC Stadium.

And with just six minutes on referee Mark Clattenburg’s watch, he again found himself gathering Diame’s shot from the back of his goal after the Senegalese midfielder cleverly controlled Jussi Jaaskelainen’s deep free-kick before turning and lashing home from 10 yards.

That was just the start Big Sam needed against a confidence-sapped Fulham side that had made seven changes as Berbatov, former Hammer-of-the-Year Scott Parker, Philippe Senderos, Kieran Richardson, Damien Duff, Sascha Riether and Adel Taarabt each earned recalls from Rene Meulensteen.

Although Riise’s 35-yard rocket steamed through the relentless riverside rain and just wide of the angle, Fulham found themselves thwarted by a string of offside flags, while at the other end, Nolan looked all set to double the West Ham lead midway through the half, but Stockdale somehow kept the skipper’s downward header out with an outstretched ankle.

Taarabt’s low shot was easily held by Jaaskelainen before Berbatov’s bicycle kick tested the Finn, who saved at full stretch and when the Hammers keeper was finally beaten by an Amorebieta header, Maiga was on hand to head off the line.

Fulham’s threat was, however, visibly increasing and West Ham’s world was turned upside down on 32 minutes, when Mark Noble hobbled away to be replaced by Rat.

The Romanian had barely set foot on the wet west London turf, when Duff floated a right wing corner into the six-yard box, where Sidwell got in front of George McCartney to send a thumping downward header into the net.

With the Hammers still coming to terms with conceding their advantage, Richardson then found himself with just Jaaskelainen to beat but he lifted the ball wide of both the exposed ‘keeper and the right post and, as West Ham struggled to clear the danger, Taarabt then struck the base of the far post.

Having started off so comfortably, the visitors were now under the cosh and a minute before the break, Nolan recklessly saw red for an off-the-ball, halfway line shove on Amorebieta.

The West Ham captain, who was dismissed at Liverpool in early December, only returned from a three-match suspension on Boxing Day and now yet more irresponsibility meant that his team-mates faced an entire second half with just ten men.

Just after the restart, former Hammers skipper Parker was the first to try his luck against the depleted visitors with an early 20-yarder that Jaaskelainen held, while Taarabt and then Duff were narrowly off target.

After Stewart Downing curiously replaced Diame and Richardson made way for Alexander Kacaniklic, Taarabt then saw the Hammers keeper claw away his ten-yard effort before the Moroccan somehow blazed the loose ball across the face of goal.

With ten-man West Ham facing both the driving rain and a furious Fulham onslaught, it was only a matter of time until their defences were breached.

Sure enough, on 66 minutes, Taarabt released Kacaniklic down the left and the substitute’s cross into the six-yard box was helped on by Parker, leaving Berbatov to net his fifth goal of the season with the simplest of tap-ins.

Carlton Cole replaced Maiga, while Darren Brent came on for Taarabt and only a brilliant point-blank save from Jaaskelainen prevented the free-running Fulham substitute from increasing the Cottagers’ lead.

Although Diarra headed high over and Downing’s stoppage time grass-cutter skidded wide, West Ham had offered little in a one-way second half and defeat in this Craven Cottage cruncher meant that they headed back along the District Line deep in relegation trouble.

COTTAGERS: Stockdale, Riether, Riise, Amorebieta, Senderos, Taarabt (Bent 69), Duff (Kasami 78), Parker, Sidwell, Richardson (Kacaniklic 56), Berbatov. Unused subs: Bettinelli,, Hughes, Dejagah, Dembele

HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O’Brien, McCartney, Diarra, Collison, Taylor, Noble (Rat 32), Nolan, Diame (Downing 56), Maiga (C. Cole 69). Unused subs: Adrian, Jarvis, J.Cole, Potts.

Bookings: Rat (59), Berbatov (70), Amorebieta (76)

Sent-Off: Nolan (44)

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: 25,335

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