West Ham have seen plenty of expensive misfits come and go down the years. A lot of money has been thrown away during the search for attackers capable of winning a game in the blink of an eye – £45m on Sébastien Haller, say, or £37m on Felipe Anderson – and in that context it was difficult not to feel apprehensive when David Moyes spent much of his budget on Lucas Paquetá and Gianluca Scamacca this summer.
Of course the unease was less down to concerns over Paquetá and Scamacca; it was more a comment on West Ham’s patchy record of making signings at that rarefied level work.
But is it going to be different this time? Last Thursday West Ham sealed victory over Anderlecht when Paquetá created the winner for Scamacca. That was almost £100m worth of talent combining to devastating effect and, three days on from their European exertions, West Ham’s new star duo were at it again, their blossoming relationship proving the difference as Moyes’s side fought back from a goal down to defeat Fulham.
The defining moment arrived with the score at 1-1. It had been coming. Paquetá, offering plenty of clever touches in the No 10 role, albeit with the occasional moment of overelaboration, had made two early chances for Scamacca. Fulham could not contain them and, while Scamacca’s aim had been awry at first, the service from Paquetá meant there was an inevitability to the Italian striker scoring when another opportunity came his way in the 62nd minute.
“If you were any centre-forward you’d want to play with Paquetá,” said Moyes, who also purred over the way that Scamacca made it 2-1. The £31.5m forward’s finish, an insouciant dink over the advancing Bernd Leno, was a beauty and West Ham were on their way to a second consecutive league win.
However West Ham, who had trailed to an early goal from Andreas Pereira, did not have it all their own way. Fulham caused problems and were aggrieved that Scamacca’s third goal in as many games was not disallowed after a VAR review to check whether he had handled before beating Leno.
Marco Silva could not believe that it stood; Fulham’s manager even thought that Chris Kavanagh, the on-pitch referee, was embarrassed when the goal was shown on the big screens.
Equally Silva, who also felt that Michail Antonio had handled before making it 3-1 in added time, admitted that Fulham were not mature enough. There is still an innocence to them, for all that they have defied expectations since last season’s promotion, and it proved their undoing.
Fulham had made a promising start, providing a compelling answer to questions about how they would fare without the injured Aleksandar Mitrovic. There was a first start for Carlos Vinícius, who has a point to prove after a forgettable loan at Tottenham two years ago, and the visitors were ahead when a counterattack ended with Neeskens Kebano sending Pereira away to beat Lukasz Fabianski from a tight angle.
West Ham were all over the place, escaping when Dan James hit the bar from 20 yards in the 14th minute. They had to improve and they stirred when Paquetá got on the ball, only for Leno to keep getting in Scamacca’s way.
“We had two or three big opportunities,” Moyes said. “And then we got the penalty kick.” A sense of panic started to grip Fulham, epitomised by Pereira’s attempts to stick with Craig Dawson as Jarrod Bowen prepared to deliver a corner. It was almost as if Pereira was trying to foul West Ham’s towering centre-back. He was repeatedly warned about grappling and he was still doing it when Bowen crossed, giving Kavanagh no option but to point to the spot.
It was tougher for Fulham after Bowen tucked his penalty away. West Ham pushed before Scamacca’s moment arrived. He has an excellent range of finishing, though he offered little reaction after his chip. Was it offside? Had the ball touched his right arm? Michael Salisbury, the VAR, had a look, but Fulham were left raging.
There was a booking for Silva, who tried to alter the flow by throwing on attacking players. One of them, Tom Cairney, saw a shot blocked by Aaron Cresswell, but Moyes had the stronger bench. He switched to a back three, introducing Emerson Palmieri, then brought Antonio on for Scamacca.
Antonio had a point to prove. The striker has lost his place to Scamacca, but he was soon bustling through, driving into the empty net after Leno saved his first effort. It seems West Ham’s spending is bringing the best out of everyone.