The profile of the FA Cup is not as high in the United States as in other countries around the world but it may just have been lifted a little higher thanks to the decisive contribution of two of its players here last night. It cannot harm its standing, also, that this now means Fulham will face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the quarter-final in 10 days' time.
With extra-time only 14 minutes away, the full-back Carlos Bocanegra found his compatriot and international team-mate Brian McBride with a long pass and, after taking the ball down, he volleyed home from 18 yards to break the deadlock in this fifth-round replay. West Ham had given so much and it broke the spirit of the home side.
As Alan Pardew, the Hammers' manager, said: "We never recovered from the first goal and then we began to run out of bodies." That was proved two minutes later as Steed Malbranque got to the byline with ease and crossed for the substitute Barry Hayles to tap into an empty net. The misery for the Hammers was complete as Luis Boa Morte brushed past the goalkeeper Stephen Bywater and rolled his shot into the net in the final seconds.
Maybe it was the allure of going to Old Trafford and catching up with their former teammate Louis Saha that finally sparked Fulham into life, because until the second half was underway West Ham were by far the more adventurous. Maybe also the west London side were feeling as under-the-weather as Chris Coleman. The Fulham manager was confined to bed yesterday and has been told to rest there until tomorrow.
As his assistant, Steve Kean, said: "We knew that the biggest pick-me-up for Chris would be winning and facing United."
Fulham came into this game without an away win in nine, stretching back, ironically, to their victory at Old Trafford in October. They will first be reacquainted with United this Saturday, however, as they play each other at Loftus Road in the Premiership. Saha should play in that match, if fit, but is Cup-tied for the quarter-final.
West Ham were lacking personnel from this game for that very same reason. Six, in fact, yet you would not have guessed it as they carried the fight to Fulham, who themselves were without the midfielder Lee Clark and the defender Ian Pearce.
The Hammers were bright yet they came up against Edwin van der Sar, Fulham's goalkeeper, in inspired form. As Pardew said: "I heard he's on a lot of money and he's earned it tonight." His first good save came after 19 minutes when Michael Carrick found David Connolly, who laid his pass off to Marlon Harewood. His shot was goal-bound only for the Dutchman to tip it over. Van der Sar also saved well from 20 yards from Connolly and Kevin Horlock.
But a tactical switch by Kean effectively nullified Brian Deane and Connolly and the balance of play went Fulham's way. With 64 minutes gone Bobby Petta crossed for Sean Davis, whose header was brilliantly turned away by Bywater. What he could not divert, though, was the tide of the match after McBride's goal.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Bywater; Dailly (Mellor, 82), Ferdinand, Quinn, Mullins; Carrick, Etherington, Horlock (Lee, 80), Harewood; Connolly, Deane (Lomas, 74). Substitutes not used: Forde (gk), Carole.
Fulham (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Volz, Djetou (Knight, 47), Goma, Bocanegra; Legwinski, Malbranque, Davis (Pembridge, 90), Petta (Hayles, 73); McBride, Boa Morte Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Inamoto.
Referee: M Riley (W Yorkshire).Reuse content