West Ham cap abysmal week to gift rivals the impetus in fight for Europe

West Ham cap abysmal week to gift rivals the impetus in fight for Europe

There are cheap, sweaty Chinese takeaways that travel better than Fulham and a trip to West Ham seemed an unlikely occasion for Marco Silva’s side to buck their season’s trend.

The west Londoners had not departed the East End with three points on any of their last dozen Premier League visits and had won just once on the road anywhere (naturally, at Old Trafford) since beating Everton on the opening day of the campaign.

Here, though, Andreas Pereira’s double earned a 2-0 victory and in the process capped an abysmal 72 hours for David Moyes’s side, who have seen their European aspirations for both this season and next suffer twin blows.

Beaten 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday night, the Hammers here threw away the chance to climb above Manchester United and Newcastle into sixth. The race for Europe remains tight, its parameters not even yet defined, but surrendering games in hand all-round and with a treacherous run-in to come, West Ham no longer occupy the box-seat.

Andreas Pereira (R) got both goals on Sunday (John Walton/PA Wire)
Andreas Pereira (R) got both goals on Sunday (John Walton/PA Wire)

In Moyes’s desperation, he turned to teenage midfielder George Earthy as the game entered its final throes, a rare instance of the Scot putting trust in one of a crop of young Hammers rated extremely highly in these parts.

Just two minutes into the 19-year-old’s Premier League debut, though, he was involved in a sickening collision, accidentally flattened by teammate Edson Alvarez and then seemingly knocked out cold when his head hit the floor. Players from both sides, as well as Fulham boss Silva, were quick to call on the medics and after more than eight minutes of treatment he was stretchered off receiving oxygen. The incident took any late sting out of an affair that, by then, looked settled.

Silva made just one change from his side’s late defeat at Newcastle last weekend, the industrious Sasa Lukic replacing Tom Cairney in midfield. Moyes might ideally have liked to rotate more heavily, with a miracle on order when Leverkusen visit in four days’ time, but neither his squad depth nor the precarious state of the Premier League’s race for Europe offered such luxury.

With Jarrod Bowen still missing, Danny Ings was brought in as one of three changes, the striker starting in the same team as Michail Antonio for only the second time in his West Ham career.

If a European hangover might have been expected of West Ham, then Moyes must have had his men on the lesser-spotted non-alcoholic stuff on their German sojourn, the home side making the faster start here.

Lucas Paqueta, who will miss Thursday’s return against Leverkusen through suspension, set out as if keen to make some amends, scooping delightfully over Alex Iwobi and creating a glorious early chance with his fine switch to Vladimir Coufal. The Czech stretched twice to poke beyond defenders into the heart of the box and though Bernd Leno laid glove on ball, the keeper succeeded only in deflecting to the feet of Antonio. Eight yards out, the Jamaican had to score but would not settle for that, trying to rip the net from its fastenings and instead threatening the upper-tier.

Mohammed Kudus curled wide after a clever short-corner, before Paqueta had thousands wrongly thinking his far-post strike into the side-netting had brought the opening goal.

Still, it seemed only a matter of time and that proved true - except it was Fulham who provided it, and from their very first attack.

West Ham remain eighth in the table (Getty Images)
West Ham remain eighth in the table (Getty Images)

Konstantinos Mavropanos was the guilty party, cutting out Iwobi’s pass in behind but with too soft a touch when the ball needed to be cleared. Pereira pounced, weaving round Lukasz Fabianski and lifting into the roof of the net.

Pereira was proving a menace, Alvarez back in midfield but a yard off the pace in opposition having hokey-cokeyed his way through the recent fixture list due to multiple bans. The Brazilian arrived late and steered wide from countryman Willian’s cross, then almost picked out another in the in-form Rodrigo Muniz, only for Nayef Aguerd to intervene.

After the break, another missed Mavropanos clearance almost saw the visitors double their lead but Iwobi was denied by a fine low save from Fabianski, the veteran Pole again showing that for all their depth problems elsewhere, West Ham are still blessed with perhaps the division’s most reliable No2.

On 72 minutes, though, the visitors broke through again, Joao Palhinha’s crunching tackles on Paqueta sparking another counter-raid and Pereira sweeping home unmarked from Iwobi’s low cross to secure the points.