Jan 30 2013 By Yann Tear
Fulham 3-1 West Ham
BIRTHDAY boy Dimitar Berbatov gave himself the perfect present of a goal to toast reaching 32, as Fulham eked out a first home win since early December.
The Bulgarian's evening was cut short by a hamstring tweak 15 minutes from time, but that only took a little of the gloss off an important win. His eighth goal of the campaign had set the tone for the evening.
Berbatov netted with the game only 10 minutes old – nodding home from point-blank range at the far post when Damien Duff floated in a free-kick from the edge of the area.
Duff's set piece might have been met by any one of four Fulham players, with Brede Hangeland, Bryan Ruiz and Hugo Rodallega also getting in behind a static Hammers defence.
Berbatov came close to doubling the lead just before half-time when he wriggled away from Kevin Nolan on half way and held off Joe Cole before drilling just wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen's right hand post, while Ruiz had stung the keeper's palms in the opening moments of a half Fulham largely controlled.
West Ham looked there for the taking but raised themselves from their slumber to equalise three minutes after the restart – Nolan profiting from Mark Noble's quick free-kick to turn and fire in from the inside left channel.
But the Whites were back in charge a minute later when Duff floated in a cross from the left that three Hammers defenders failed to intercept. Rodallega, standing amongst then, got his head to the ball first for the softest of goals – his third of the season.
Nolan came close to tying it up again on 70 minutes when he slipped past a floundering Philippe Senderos and only Mark Schwarzer's fingertips prevented a low shot from creeping inside the far post.
Berbatov went close again, flashing a shot narrowly wide with the outside of his boot, but Fulham's cause could have become more complicated in the final 10 minutes when the striker limped off.
As it was, they did well in repelling West Ham's late onslaught and grabbed a third goal in injury time – Mladen Petric's close range effort flicking off a post and into the net off West Ham's Joey O'Brien.
Rodallega had created the opening with a low shot that the Hammers keeper could only palm out towards Petric and he enjoyed a good second half after switching to a more central striking role.
Line up: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Rodallega, Karagounis (Baird 66), Sidwell, Duff; Ruiz (Dejagah 66), Berbatov (Petric 76). Subs not used: Etheridge, Frimpong, Hughes, Davies.