Birthday boy Berbatov celebrates with Fulham win
LONDON (AFP) – Fulham forward Dimitar Berbatov celebrated his 32nd birthday by scoring the goal that inspired his club to a 3-1 win over West Ham at Craven Cottage on Wednesday.
Berbatov took just 10 minutes to mark his birthday in style as he headed Fulham’s opener despite West Ham’s legitimate claims that the former Manchester United star was offside.
West Ham levelled just after half-time through Kevin Nolan, but Hugo Rodallega restored Fulham’s lead within a minute and Joey O’Brien’s stoppage-time own goal sealed the points for the Cottagers.
It was just Fulham’s third win in 15 Premier League matches, lifting Martin Jol’s side eight points clear of the relegation zone and one place above West Ham.
West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was forced into action in the eighth minute, parrying away a fierce Bryan Ruiz effort from 20 yards.
The hosts took the lead in the 10th minute when Damien Duff sent across a free-kick from the right, which took the slightest of touches off Ruiz as it made its way to Berbatov to head home.
It was a moment of luck for the hosts as the Bulgarian was offside when the ball was whipped in and he looked towards the linesman to check the goal had been given before celebrating.
West Ham tried to respond and Nolan nodded a Mohamed Diame cross wide when well placed.
The Hammers finally equalised in the 48th minute when Mark Noble played a quick free-kick that caught the hosts off guard and Nolan fired a low strike past Mark Schwarzer.
But Fulham were ahead again within 60 seconds. Duff burst down the left flank and sent in a cross that Colombian striker Rodallega reached ahead of West Ham’s defenders to bundle home.
Nolan was denied a second equaliser by Schwarzer in the 70th minute before Hammers boss Sam Allardyce sent on England striker Andy Carroll for his first appearance since November 28.
However, Fulham wrapped up victory in stoppage time as Jaaskelainen parried a shot into Mladen Petric’s path and his strike deflected into the net off West Ham defender O’Brien.