It was a lively game at Upton Park between two of London's lesser lights, who combined to play out 90 minutes of entertaining and attacking football that was just short of the efficiency in front of goal that could have seen a winner crowned.
It was West Ham United who dominated the early part of the game — indeed, the first half an hour — but just failed to make the most of the possession and territory they enjoyed.
It was Piquionne who had the first real chance for the home side, rising highest to meet a corner with a powerful header, which may or may not have been flying narrowly wide before Carlos Salcido cleared it away at the far post. At the other end, the Mexican gave a reminder the away side would not be easily pushed over as he rampaged forward to provide a number of inviting crosses.
Further opportunities fell for the home side to the likes of Victor Obinna and Luis Boa Morte, but the watching Avram Grant was frustrated as his attackers just failed to find that crucial final ball that could have resulted in the opening goal. And it was a problem that would quickly come back to haunt them.
On the half hour Fulham showed they were by no means out of the game, as a quick counter and Clint Dempsey's lay-off gave Eddie Johnson the time and space to curl a 25-yard effort only narrowly high and wide of Rob Green's far post.
Barely a minute later Johnson was in the thick of the action again, as his run in behind the defense to chase down Danny Murphy's floated through ball seemed to be ended illegally by Lars Jacobsen. But, despite various appeals, the referee rejected Fulham's claims — much to Mark Hughes' chagrin.
The disappointment was short-lived, however, as Fulham soon found themselves ahead. Good work on the edge of the box between Simon Davies and Dempsey ended with the Welshman's deflected pass loping perfectly over the defense for the onrushing American, who steadied himself just enough to clip a measured left-foot volley around Green and in at the near post.
Fulham were now well and truly in the ascendancy, and it wasn't long before Dempsey had a penalty claim of his own after being forcefully pushed off the ball by Manuel da Costa. But the referee again sided with the bullish defending.
It was the on-loan Obinna who led the response for his side, showing himself unafraid to take on defenders and make something happen for himself. He dragged one shot just wide after bursting through opposing defenders, before Schwarzer got down low to his right to deny Scott Parker after another quick foray forward. Suddenly sitting a little deeper and trying to hit on the counter-attack, Salcido was once again his side's main attacking threat, as he fired a speculative effort straight at Green.
It was Fulham that started the second half the better, with Johnson and Dempsey beginning to show a good understanding as the former's great run and cut back allowed the latter to unleash a vicious drive that flew only narrowly over the bar — with Green perhaps just helping it on it's way.
But, no sooner had that warning shot been fired then West Ham were back on level terms. A poor clearance from Hangeland fell straight at the feet of Boa Morte on the edge of the box, who quickly released Obinna down the right to fire in a cross for Piquionne — who made no mistake with a firm header from all of six yards that gave Schwarzer no chance.
That goal seemed to galvanize the hosts, who quickly sprang back into life. The previously quite Pablo Barrera was the next to have Schwarzer worrying as his curled shot flew narrowly wide, before Piquionne tried his luck with a dipping volley that had the unsure Australian at full stretch to see it wide.
Fulham weren't giving up, however, and gave a reminder of their continued intent as Dempsey rounded two defenders inside the box, forcing Green to rush out and smartly smother his poke at goal.
The two sides continued to trade attempts, with the majority of the away side's falling to the increasingly confident Eddie Johnson, who seemed to get a bit closer with every half-chance presented to him.
Grant put on Carlton Cole for the disappointing Barrera in a bold attacking move, but it was Fulham who had the next chance of real note as Dempsey's downward header bounced up and only narrowly wide of the far post, with Rob Green scrambling desperately to cover. West Ham's chances, by contrast, were more of individual creation — Obinna hitting a speculative effort from out wide that didn't come close to troubling Schwarzer.
As the final whistle loomed both sides only seemed to increase their attacking intent, and both sides displayed some fine footwork and passing as they looked for a decisive goal. One particular from move ended with Obinna receiving the ball on the edge of the box, but the youngster was again unable to direct his well-hit shot on target.
Davies tested Green late on with a wickedly-swinging 35-yarder, and then the former England No.1 had to be at his best to palm away Etuhu's late header, while at the other end Scott Parker just failed to get on the end of the ball in the box after Cole's good work.
In the end neither side could find a late decider, and so the game finished level; a result perhaps both sides will be happy enough with after having equal opportunities to win — or lose — the game.
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