Another draw for Fulham that does them no favours, as West Ham claim share of the Cottage spoils
Fulham (0) 0
West Ham (0) 0
Fulham continue to suffer a death by a thousand cuts. They can look classy and competitive but their lack of bite means it might not be enough to spare them the unforgiving tentacles of relegation.
They were once again good at hogging the ball and showing tidy touches, but when it came to the crunch, they could not find the all-important goal to give their rescue project greater credibility.
It was not for the want of trying. They kept pushing right to the end of match which ended in controversy – ref Mike Dean sending off Tomas Soucek for an off-the ball altercation with Aleksandar Mitrovic after a VAR check.
The cold facts are that the Whites have not won in 12 Premier League games since the late November win against Leicester City. It is also now 20 Premier League London derbies without a win – another stat they won’t care much for.
Ordinarily, a draw against the high-flying Hammers would be no disaster. The Irons had won seven out of eight going into this one and are knocking on the door of European qualification. But Scott Parker’s men are still eight points from safety and desperate for three-point returns.
The Whites had by far the better of it and should have forced a win.
Ademola Lookman probably still has nightmares about the last-minute Panenka penalty miss at the London Stadium earlier in the season when the Hammers won 1-0, and he appeared desperate to make amends right to the very end.
He got himself into good shooting positions on at least three occasions in the first half - a left-footer from 25 yards only just strayed off target, with Lukasz Fabianski sprawling to his left, while another rising effort just cleared the bar.
Once again, the Whites looked organised and capable of holding onto the ball for lengthy spells. But they also looked short of the devil you need in the final third to make it pay.
Antonee Robinson’s cross was met by the head of Ivan Cavaleiro but the lack of power summed up a lot of the home side’s malaise.
The restart saw a Cavaleiro free-kick balloon up into the air off the defensive wall and out of harm’s way, while Bobby Decordova-Reid volleyed a Joachim Anderson cross just over.
Then, Lookman’s neat pass into the left channel gave Ruben Loftus-Cheek a wonderful opening – but the on-loan Chelsea man lifted his chip wide of an advancing Fabianski.
Just past the hour, Vladimir Coufal almost broke the deadlock after connecting well with Declan Rice’s cross from the left, seeing his header bounce off the top of the bar and out.
But the hosts still pressed more and came closest to stealing the win. Tosin headed a Lookman corner just over and another set piece won on the edge of the area was curled just wide of the wall and the post by Fulham’s midfielder, who never stopped trying to make things happen.
There was also another chance for Cavaleiro after Decordova-Reid had got on the outside of Aaron Cresswell, after good work from Kenny Tete, but a first-time shot was scooped over the frame.
Mitrovic came on – along with debutant Josh Maja – and was soon firing a low shot just wide as the Whites tried to go for broke and Loftus-Cheek arrowed another shot just wide as the rain teemed down on a desolate Craven Cottage.
The Hammers ended the game with 10-men after an off-the-ball incident on the edge of the Fulham penalty area when Soucek was adjudged to have raised his hands against Mitrovic. But it came deep into injury time and too late to offer hope of a late victory.
Whites: Areola – Tete, Andersen, Tosin – Decordova-Reid (Anguissa 83), Reed, Lemina (Mitrovic 79), Robinson (Maja 79) – Loftus-Cheek, Lookman – Cavaleiro. Subs not used: Rodak, Hector, Ream, Bryan, Onomah, Aina
Hammers: Fabianski – Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell – Soucek, Rice – Bowen (Noble 56), Lingard, Benrahma (Yarmolenko 56) – Antonio (Fredericks 74). Subs not used: Balbuena, Lanzini, Fornals, Diop, Martin, Johnson