New Fulham manager Felix Magath shut up shop with just a 1-0 lead, and West Brom made him pay.
Just like the last time these two teams faced off, a late Baggies goal denies the Whites two points and may have condemned them to the drop.
The winner came from substitute Matej Vydra, as Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg – who’d been fantastic all game – couldn’t handle a blast right at him and the ball trickled over the line for the equalizer four minutes from full-time.
Fulham controlled much of the possession in the opening 10 minutes. The first real chance came in the sixth minute, as Louis Holtby played a one-two with Hugo Rodallega and the Spurs loanee fired wide left.
It turned into a possession game with precious little on goal going forward, but again the visitors had a chance as Steve Sidwell missed a follow-up shot in the 22nd minute, after Ashkan Dejagah’s cross was just out of the reach of Hugo Rodallega.
The Whites controlled possession but West Brom were dangerous on the break. Thievy Bifouma took a ball from Saido Berainho on the break, with Fulham caught out, but Maarten Stekelenburg saved very well to keep the game scoreless.
Fulham finally took advantage of their chances in the 28th minute. Kieran Richardson broke down the left touchline, and his first-time cross found Holtby. The forward whiffed at his kick, but it fell to Dejagah on the other end of the box, and the Iranian threaded the needle for the opener.
The visitors were the more dangerous side throughout the first half, and Rodallega took a crack on goal from well far out, a great strike, but Ben Foster was equal to the task to dive and parry away, and it went to the half with just the one score.
West Brom finally had their first sustained spell of pressure on the Fulham defense following that chance. Chris Brunt had a testing shot on goal after the ball fell to him outside the box, but Stekelenburg again came to Fulham’s rescue, saving the bouncing shot and securing one of his best and most important performances in a Fulham shirt.
The home side continued to dominate possession in the second half, and Magath brought on Kostas Mitroglou for his Fulham debut on 60 minutes.
There were nearly shades of the reverse fixture earlier on, as Gareth McAuley – last time’s equalizing hero – latched onto a corner but put his header just wide with 20 minutes to go. But with Dan Burn brought on to give Fulham five men at the back and 20 minutes to go , it was clear Magath was looking to see out the 1-0 win.
The Baggies had other ideas. With tired legs all around the pitch, Vydra took his chance. Victor Anichebe sent in a great cross to Vydra in the middle of the box, and he blasted his shot from close range directly at Stekelenburg. The Dutch keeper, who’d had an outsanding match, couldn’t handle the heat, and the ball trickled away and just over the line.
The point is massive for West Brom. They still have just two wins in their last 21 league matches, but the point gives them a bit of cushion over the drop.
For Fulham, who have Chelsea up next, they drop an enormous two points. Instead of going just one point from safety, they remain bottom of the table and fail to take advantage of Cardiff City’s loss.
West Brom – Vydra 86′
Fulham – Dejagah 28′
West Brom – Foster; Jones (Anichebe 44′), McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Morrison, Brunt, Amalfitano; Berainho (Vydra 75′), Thievy (Gera 45′).
Fulham – Stekelenburg; Riether, Hangeland, Heitinga, Amorebieta (Riise 52′); Dejagah, Parker, Sidwell, Richardson (Burn 70′); Holtby; Rodallega (Mitroglou 60′).