Fulham 2-1 West Ham United

Dimitar Berbatov
Dimitar Berbatov

Dimitar Berbatov's fifth goal of the season helped Fulham climb out of the Premier League drop zone with a victory over fellow strugglers West Ham.

The Hammers had taken the lead when Mohamed Diame slotted home from a long ball but Steve Sidwell equalised with a header from a corner.

West Ham captain Kevin Nolan was sent off just before half-time for an off-the-ball kick at Fernando Amorebieta.

And Fulham made the extra man count when Bulgarian Berbatov tapped home.

West Ham captain Kevin Nolan

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Fulham 2-1 West Ham: Sam Allardyce calls Kevin Nolan 'irresponsible'

New Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen used the festive period to beef up his backroom staff with the appointments of Alan Curbishley as technical director and Ray Wilkins as assistant head coach.

However, it was the return to fitness of striker Berbatov, 32, who had not played since the Cottagers' 4-1 defeat at Everton on 14 December because of a groin problem, which could prove a more timely boost for Meulensteen.

Berbatov was one of seven changes the Dutchman made from the team thrashed 6-0 away to Hull City while West Ham also rotated with six different players from the side which drew 3-3 with West Brom.

It was the Hammers, without a league win since a 3-0 success over Fulham at Upton Park at the end of November, who took the lead after a positive start.

A long kick up field from goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen bounced on the edge of the Fulham area and was controlled by Diame who planted a low shot on the turn into the corner of the net.

Fulham eventually found some rhythm and Bebatov registered their first meaningful effort on goal with an acrobatic effort while Amorebieta saw his goal-bound header from a corner cleared off the line by West Ham striker Modibo Maiga.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce believes the key to survival for his side will be the return of the club's injured players but they were dealt a blow on the half-hour mark when Mark Noble went down clutching his leg and was replaced by Razvan Rat.

West Ham's depleted defence - soon to be bolstered by the arrival of Everton defender Johnny Heitinga - had looked suspect from set-pieces throughout the first half, so it came as little surprise when Fulham equalised from a corner.

Damien Duff's flag kick picked out the run of Sidwell, who escaped the attentions of George McCartney and planted a header past Jaaskelainen.

It got worse for Allardyce's side on the stroke of half-time when Nolan was shown a straight red card for a needless off-the-ball kick at Amorebieta which proved to be the turning point in the game.

Nolan had only recently returned from suspension having been sent off in West Ham's 4-1 defeat at Liverpool.

Fulham signalled their intent to make the extra man count after the break and John Arne Riise brought a reaction save out of Jaaskelainen at his near post.

Adel Taarabt missed a great chance to put Fulham ahead when his initial header was saved by Jaaskelainen but could only strike the rebound back across goal.

Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen

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Fulham 2-1 West Ham: Rene Meulensteen pleased with festive form

Fulham's persistence eventually paid off in the 66th minute when Alexander Kacaniklic's low cross from the left was steered into the path of Berbatov by Scott Parker which left the experienced former Manchester United striker with a simple tap-in.

West Ham threw on striker Carlton Cole as they attempted to get back into the contest but Fulham's defence stood firm.

Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen: "The key for us was getting the points and moving out of the bottom three. It doesn't mean we've turned a corner but we're looking confident.

"We all know that when you're in our position, home games are very important. I thought we played well.

"We deserved the equaliser and the sending off helped us because you get more space and more possession. At 2-1 they obviously thought they still had a chance and put balls into the mixer but we dealt well with it."

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce: "I am disappointed because we went down to 10 men and that was a turning point.

"Our captain was irresponsible, not just for today but for the future because he is suspended. He's let everyone down and himself.

"Kevin is an experienced player and I'm surprised because he had a silly challenge at Liverpool. That's two in the space of the month and it's something I will not allow to happen."

For a gallery of images from Wednesday's Premier League games please go to the BBC Sport Facebook page.

As It Stood

TeamPWDLGDPts
1Arsenal2014332145
2Man City2014243444
3Chelsea2013431943
4Liverpool2012352339
5Everton2010821338
6Tottenham201145-137
7Man Utd201046934
8Newcastle201037433
9Southampton20767327
10Hull20659-323
11Aston Villa20659-623
12Stoke20578-1122
13Swansea20569-221
14West Brom20497-421
15Norwich205510-1620
16Fulham206113-2119
17Cardiff204610-1718
18Crystal Palace205213-1617
19West Ham203611-1115
20Sunderland203512-1814
View full Premier League table

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