West Ham earned their second consecutive win in the league after fighting back to defeat Fulham, who were unhappy that the decisive goal from Gianluca Scamacca in the second half was not disallowed.
This was an entertaining London derby, one that could have gone either way, but it was defined by the moment when Scamacca’s second league goal for his new side was allowed to stand. It was a debatable VAR call and Fulham were furious. They saw a handball from Scamacca, who produced an insouciant finish after a lovely pass from Lucas Paquetá, but the officials favoured the attacking team. West Ham would not complain.
The initial sense was that David Moyes’s side had not completely put their recent difficulties behind them. They were slow out of the blocks, unable to assert themselves in midfield, and it was not long before Fulham provided a compelling answer to questions about how they would fare without the injured Aleksandar Mitrovic leading the line.
Fulham refused to let the absence of their main goalscorer diminish their sense of adventure. There was a first start in attack for Carlos Vinícius, who has a point to prove after enduring a forgettable season on loan at Tottenham two years ago, and there was much to enjoy about the way Marco Silva’s side took the game to West Ham. The passing was brisk, the pressing energetic, and they were ahead in the fifth minute, the home side’s lethargy punished when a counterattack from Fulham culminated in Andreas Pereira embarrassing Lukasz Fabianski from a tight angle.
It was a smart goal, sparked by a West Ham attack breaking down and Neeskens Kebano escaping on the left. Kebano kept things moving by playing the ball down the line for Pereira and Kurt Zouma was not quick enough to engage the Fulham midfielder, who punished the centre-back by unleashing a left-footed shot that flew through Fabianski’s hands.
West Ham were all over the place. Pereira soon threatened again, testing Fabianski with a free-kick, and there could have been further joy for Fulham in the 14th minute. Again West Ham stood off, watching their opponents weave pretty patterns in front of them. This time Daniel James decided to have a go, dribbling into space 20 yards from goal and letting fly with a drive that crashed against the bar.
Prowling around his technical area, Moyes began to rip into his players. Suddenly there was a response. Paquetá, who offered plenty of neat touches but occasionally overelaborated, prised Fulham apart with a clever dinked cross. The ball floated over Tim Ream and through to Scamacca, whose downward header drew a fine save from Bernd Leno.
West Ham were warming up. Paquetá came alive again, holding off João Palhinha and releasing Scamacca, who shot just wide. Fulham, who still looked dangerous on the break, were beginning to look more open. Bobby Decordova-Reid was an obvious weakness as a makeshift right-back. West Ham repeatedly targeted the 29-year-old forward and should have levelled when the overlapping Aaron Cresswell crossed from the left, only for Leno to come to the rescue with more heroics, saving another Scamacca header and somehow shovelling the rebound from Jarrod Bowen behind for a corner.
A sense of panic started to grip Fulham’s defence, epitomised by Pereira’s desperate attempts to stick with Craig Dawson as Bowen prepared to deliver the corner. It was almost as if Pereira was trying to foul West Ham’s towering centre-back. The Brazilian was repeatedly warned about grappling before the corner was taken and he was still doing it when Bowen lifted the ball into the box, giving Chris Kavanagh no option but to point to the spot.
Fulham’s complaints fell on deaf ears. Ultimately the question for Silva was why Pereira was marking Dawson, who had a clear height advantage. It was asking for trouble and West Ham made the most of the free gift, Bowen dragging them level by sending Leno the wrong way with a cool penalty.
Now it was tougher for Fulham. West Ham pushed in the second half and they had the ball in the net in the 62nd minute, although nobody was quite sure if the goal was going to stand. Fulham had been carved apart by a scoop from Paquetá, but there was little reaction from Scamacca after he finally beat Leno with a glorious chip that hung in the air before dropping into the net. Was he offside? Had he controlled with his hand? Michael Salisbury, the VAR, checked for both infringements and West Ham steeled themselves for disappointment, only for Fulham to react with disbelief when Kavanagh was instructed that the goal should stand.
Fulham’s bench erupted again when they saw a replay of the goal on the big screens, but the officials had not been able to detect a handball from Scamacca. Silva was booked. He simmered down and tried to lift his team with some attacking substitutions; one of them, Tom Cairney, was unfortunate to see a goalbound drive blocked by Cresswell.
The game had run away from Fulham. Moyes tightened his defence, shifting to a back five by replacing Paquetá with Emerson Palmieri, and West Ham sealed their second consecutive win when Michail Antonio, who had replaced Scamacca, made it 3-1 in stoppage time.