West Ham United claimed their first victory of the 2017/18 pre-season campaign in Austria tonight, after a routine 2-1 victory over EFL Championship side Fulham, with goals from Manuel Lanzini & Ashley Fletcher.
It was a game of two halves, as West Ham’s youngsters dominated proceedings early on, and left Slaven Bilic with a potential selection headache this season.
The opening ten minutes offered little, with both sides settling into the match at a slow, tentative pace, although not providing any great threat going forward, both sides shared an equal amount of possession, as they looked to settle into the first 45 minutes.
The deadlock was broken however in the 14th minute, Nathan Holland broke free down the left wing with a lovely turn of pace, as he fired a low pass into Ashley Fletcher, his lovely lay-off found Manuel Lanzini, as the Argentine turned sharply to fire home into the bottom left-hand corner from close range.
West Ham were almost pegged back immediately, when Fulham’s Floyd Ayité put Sam Byram onto the back-foot driving fast to the left-hand byline, cutting back to find former Hull striker Sone Aluko.
His shot went hard and low to Darren Randolphs right-hand side, but the Irish number one pulled off an athletic reaction save, keeping the thoughts of West Ham’s number two keeper this year firmly in Slaven Bilic’s mind.
Lanzini almost had his second of the game in the 26th minute, after a fine piece of work and build up play by Feghouli down the right wing, it saw him play a lovely one-two with Josh Cullen before setting up Manu, who dragged the ball onto his left foot and curled the ball inches wide of the far post.
West Ham went on to double their lead just before half time, after a routine back pass wasn’t dealt with by Fulham keeper David Button, Ashley Fletcher pounched, turned and slotted the ball into an empty net to give the Hammers a 2-0 lead at half time.
Josh Cullen looked a men amongst boys during the first half, not only commanding possession but constantly looking for the ball, making his presence felt at the heart of the action every time he went forward. The link-up play between Lanzini, Holland and himself was second-to-none, and it proves all along the Bradford fans were right to praise his potential rise to stardom.
Slaven Bilic made no less than ten changes at the break, leaving starlet and standout first half performer Josh Cullen on for the second half, with a more mature West Ham core in the second 45.
Unfortunately for Slaven’s men however, they weren’t able to replicate the same intensity, fight or desire in the second half as Fulham looked to capitalise, with Floyd Ayité’s shot narrowly missing Adrians right upright from 25-yards out, as warning signs grew.
A quick Fulham break then ensued on 67 minutes, as Cauley Woodrow’s attempt fell low to Adrian, who gathered comfortably into his body, as the Cottagers momentum increased.
Moments later however West Ham could have sealed the game, as Robert Snodgrass’ swooping corner found James Collins, he nodded down into the path of captain Mark Noble, but his audacious volley flew wide.
With only 9 minutes left on the clock Fulham pulled a goal back, Sone Aluko threaded a lovely through ball on the edge of the 18-yard box to Ryan Sessegnon, as the youngster toe-poked his shot past the sprawling Adrian, after taking a slight deflection off Reece Burke on the way through.
It wasn’t enough for Fulham however, as the referee brought the game to an end after only 89 minutes, giving the Hammers their first win on this years pre-season Austria tour.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Josh Cullen
West Ham United: Randolph (Adrian 46), Byram (Zabaleta 46), Ogbonna (Collins 46), Rice (Burke 46), Cresswell (Masuaku 46), Cullen (Makasi 77), Lanzini (Noble 46), Makasi (Obiang 46), Feghouli (Ayew 46), Holland (Snodgrass 46), Fletcher (Martinez 46)
Goals: Lanzini 14, Fletcher 40
Fulham: Button, Fredericks (Opoku 75), Sigurdsson (Ream 23), Djalo, Opoku (Sessegnon 46), Cisse (McDonald 46), Piazon (Aluko 75), Edun, Aluko (O'Reilly 46), Woodrow, Ayite (Cisse 75)
Substitutes: Rodak, Johansen
Goal: Sessegnon 81