Andreas Pereira outsmarts West Ham to give Fulham all too rare away victory

Andreas Pereira outsmarts West Ham to give Fulham all too rare away victory

With his bleach blonde hair and yellow footwear, Andreas Pereira demands to be noticed. Standing out comes naturally to the Brazil international, it seems.

And, in east London on Sunday, Pereira’s performance was every bit as bright as his appearance. A rare away victory for Fulham – only their third of the Premier League season, in fact, – was secured by Pereira’s goals in either half.

Yes, both finishes were modest enough. Yet footballing simplicity requires foresight and, according to Marco Silva, Fulham’s plan was executed to perfection.

“We said to him ‘never be behind the two midfielders’,” Siva explained. “We wanted him in the pockets, between the lines.” By design rather than accident, then.

Since joining Fulham from Manchester United in the summer of 2022, Pereira has been central to Silva’s plans. Central, and a tad further forward that while at United, or during his gaggle of previous loans across Italy (Lazio), Brazil (Flamengo) or Spain (Granada and Valencia).

Goals is what Pereira’s game has been lacking – he had just one to show for his 39 previous appearances this season.

“Before he played much more as a second midfielder,” Silva said. “Since he joined us, he’s been playing in a different line, as much more of an offensive midfielder. It’s something we’ve been working on with him.”

Andreas Pereira outsmarts West Ham to give Fulham all too rare away victory
Andreas Pereira is embraced by Marco Silva - Getty Images/Crystal Pix

Pereira’s first was a reward for persistence. Receiving the ball just inside West Ham’s half, paused for a half-beat, laid off to Alex Iwobi, and began running.

Iwobi clipped a cross towards Rodrigo Muniz, but Konstantinos Mavropanos read it. The West Ham defender’s interception was neither clearance nor controlled touch, though. Meanwhile, Pereira arrived in the penalty area at the optimal moment, rounded Lukasz Fabianksi and finished.

“We scored in that moment because Andreas really believed the ball could fall for him in that area,” Silva beamed.

The second came on the break, a classic Fulham goal. Joao Palhinha, as he does so often, won possession. They broke rapidly and, barely an eye’s blink later, Iwobi was squaring for Pereira’s second.

That, for Pereira, was that. Off he trotted,  sharing a warm embrace with Silva on departure. It was the pair’s second coming together of the afternoon, Pereira also having sought out his manager following the opener.

“When the players feel that what we’ve worked on, the feedback we’ve given them, works in a game, the feeling is always really good,” Silva offered as an explanation.

It was not just Pereira’s goals that made him stand out, though. No, this was not simply a “right place, right time” style outing that say, for example, West Ham coach Kevin Nolan made a fine career out of.

Pereira was silky, regal even. There was even a touch of cheek, a little second-half showboating to find Iwobi in the corner in front of his adoring Fulham public. Displays like this are why Belgium-born (his family moved there because his father Marcos was also a professional footballer) Pereira recently earned Brazil caps two and three, some six years after his 2018 debut.

Displays like this suggest the £8 million plus add-ons Fulham paid for him can be considered a snip. Displays like this are why clubs who can offer European football may well test the summer waters.

For Fulham supporters the frustration will be that, but for their consistent inconsistency, they may have been in with a shout of a Conference League spot (or better) themselves.

Alas, for every astonishingly brilliant performance – see their recent home win over Tottenham – there is an astonishingly poor one – see their defeat at Nottingham Forest two games later.  And that is why, as excellent as they were against West Ham, mid-table beckons.

For David Moyes’ team, defeat, 72 hours after a loss in Leverkusen, makes the prospect of a fourth consecutive season of continental travel less likely. Their Sunday suffering will have delighted supporters on Manchester and Tyneside.

Andreas Pereira outsmarts West Ham to give Fulham all too rare away victory
Emerson Palmieri's reacts after Andreas Pereira scores Fulham's second - PA/Bradley Collyer

All might have been so very different but for Michail Antonio’s early wastefulness. “Miracle is a strong word,” Moyes said when asked if West Ham required one to overcome a two-goal deficit against Bayern Leverkusen on Thursday.

“We didn’t have our shooting boots today. The opportunities fell to us, but we blazed them over the bar or didn’t connect right. We are going to need the people who are the goalscorers to come up with the goods.”