There was almost nothing at stake in yesterday’s meeting between Fulham and West Ham at Craven Cottage. West Ham was all but mathematically assured of staying up, and Fulham had advanced to the May 12 Europa League final and would be resting players for the game.
Sure, Fulham could move into the top half of the table with a win, while three points for West Ham would vault it over some of the teams ahead of it in the standings. There was also the odd fact that West Ham hadn’t lost a league game at Craven Cottage since 1966.
But apart from those straws, and pride and professionalism, there wasn’t much to grasp at, motivation-wise. Nobody told that to U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey, though. Playing with a cast on his right thumb, Dempsey hit the bar with a terrific shot in the 26th minute, then opened the scoring just before halftime, corralling a pass from Simon Davies and slipping a shot inside the near post.
An unlucky own goal by West Ham striker Carlton Cole put Fulham up 2-0 in the 58th minute, but Cole pulled one back for West Ham just three minutes later, heading in a Scott Parker free kick.
Now the Hammers had some life, and started creating some chances. An equalizer seemed within reach until U.S. defender Jonathan Spector coughed up the ball to Erik Nevland just outside the area on the left in the 80th minute. Nevland squared it for substitute Stefano Okaka to tap in: 3-1 Fulham.
Guillermo Franco scored in stoppage time to make it 3-2, but it was too late for West Ham. Thanks in large part to Spector’s gaffe, they lost a league match at Craven Cottage for the first time in 44 years.
With his second poor performance in a row, Spector is not exactly peaking as the World Cup approaches. Dempsey, on the other hand, is hitting his stride. Still not sure what happened with that apparently broken right thumb, though.