Dec 15 (Reuters) - West Ham won their fourth successive Premier League game to add to Fulham’s woes at Craven Cottage on Saturday, beating their cross-London rivals 2-0 with goals from Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio.
Fulham, yet to keep a clean sheet this season, stayed rooted to the bottom of the table with nine points from 17 games, while the Hammers rose to ninth place on 24 points.
New Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri had been looking to build on the four points his side took in their first two home games under his charge.
His players created most of the early pressure, with strikers Andre Schurrle and Aboubakar Kamara firing in shots and creating chances within the opening 10 minutes.
But it was Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors who took the lead after 17 minutes when midfielder Felipe Anderson sprang past Fulham’s Denis Odoi and fed the ball back to Snodgrass, who blasted his left-footed shot high into the top left corner.
Anderson helped West Ham to double their lead 12 minutes later, crossing in from near the sideline to Javier Hernandez. The Mexican striker nodded the ball back behind him to Antonio, who brought it down and quickly slotted it between the legs of onrushing Cottagers keeper Sergio Rico.
West Ham have won every game in December, their best run in the Premier League since February 2014.
“In the first half, you create a few chances against a team like Fulham, who are scrapping for points, you have to take them and we did. It was a great performance and four wins on the bounce is always good,” said Snodgrass.
The contrast could not be starker with their first four games of the season, all of which they lost, and the Hammers are now just two points behind sixth-placed Manchester United.
Ranieri was philosophical in defeat although he knows Fulham’s fortunes will have to turn around soon if they are to avoid an instant return to the Championship.
“We have to stay calm, reflect and try to work harder, harder and harder,” said the Italian. “In a bad moment, it is important to stay together. We have a very good group, I’m sure we will react soon.”
Fulham created far more chances than West Ham, prompting Ranieri to reflect ruefully: “We shoot at the goal 16 times — nothing. They create two counter-attacks and score. It’s unbelievable.”
Pellegrini said his side had benefitted from the early goals, as it left Fulham chasing the game while his own players could focus on protecting their lead.
“We knew that they had to take more risks in the second half,” he said.
West Ham’s manager also hailed the progress that the Brazilian Anderson had made since signing from Lazio in July for a club record 35 million pounds ($44.05 million).
“In every game he’s learning a little bit more, and in the last four games he’s had a decisive role,” Pellegrini said.
($1 = 0.7946 pounds)
Reporting by Hugh Lawson and Neil Robinson; editing by Clare Fallon and Ian Chadband