The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer reflects on a night when things went our way
There is a Cliché that decisions even out over a season. The unfairness of refereeing decisions in our previous Home game against Liverpool cost us a chance to transform 1 point into 3. Tonight our luck changed, to a degree, and transformed a game that up until then we were struggling to dominate.
The surprise before kick-off was Pellegrini’s decision to persist with Hernandez instead of Marko Arnautovic. Initially when the latter replaced Hernandez you could see why. Arnautovic contributed little beyond conceding fouls and falling offside. Arnautovic did grow into the game though, hitting the woodwork and providing the cross for Antonio to cap a powerful performance with a deserved headed clincher.
This was a performance where West Ham had several players who, at first, struggled to get up to speed. It appeared that the curse of the mid-winter warm weather break had struck again.
West Ham were simply not at the races for the first 20 minutes. Ryan Babel should have scored for Fulham after 30 seconds but hesitated when clean through. Fabianski was much the busier goalkeeper, reinforcing his claims for Hammer of the year. Even Fabianski though, could not stop Babel striking, after Ryan Sessegnon’s perfect low cross. At 3 minutes we were rocking and Fulham, given rare confidence from an early goal out worked and out footballed West Ham all over the pitch.
It was time to dig in and gradually, after a poor starts, Noble and Snodgrass’s work rate allowed West Ham a way back into the game.
The result was a series of corners, which initially presented the predictable lack of threat that these had given all season.
Yet it was finally, indirectly, from a Snodgrass corner, that our equaliser came. After Snodgrass’s corner was cleared yet again, this time the ball was instantly returned and Hernandez earned his moment of controversy when he used his left hand to divert the ball into the net.
If we have had VAR then the goal would not have stood.
However if we had had VAR then we should, according to my stadium commentator, a clear penalty when a Fulham defender handled the ball. So even within a game things even out.
The most pleasing thing for me was that West Ham finally scored a goal directly from a corner having presented little threat, not just in this game, but for many games. By the time Diop’s header converted Snodgrass’s, on this occasion, perfect delivery we were dominating the game.
As soon as Hernandez scored Fulham became diminished and West ham improved all over the pitch. Rice became increasing influential, as did Antonio. I am particularly pleased that Antonio is proving those who claimed he was not technical enough to play in a Pellegrini team wrong. He has proved his potent blend of athleticism and power still has something crucial to add to this team.
The biggest cheer of the night was for the introduction of Lanzini and his substitution brought most of us to the edge of our seats as he instantly became involved. He was actually involved in Antonio’s late goal which gave the score line a more realistic look.
Whilst Fulham never gave up they never again dominated to the extent they had in the early stages and it was West Ham who were dominating at the end, not clinging on for the points. Their late goal was just reward for this. Other teams would have played out time by the corner flag. The Hammers in this game were rightly hungry for the third goal.
With Lanzini’s return and possible rehabilitation of Arnautovic, though he still has some loyalty to regain, the season might just give us exciting impetus to propel us into a memorable 2019 2020 season. At the very least Lanzini will make us more potent from set pieces.