Monday, February 23, 2009

Fulham 2 West Bromich Albion 0

I was feeling nervous before kick-off. Despite the apparent gulf between our two clubs West Brom were only 8 points below us and had already shown themselves capable of beating us. Whilst the score remained goalless we always seemed vulnerable to a quick counter attack. West Brom played some neat football at times and Jay Simpson in particular showed potential to trouble our back line.

Whilst never quite taking complete control, Fulham did produce a catalogue of spectacular efforts in the first half. Danny Murphy curled an excellent free kick goal wards which was only kept out by Scott Carson's fingertip push onto the post. Dickson Etuhu continued the form he'd shown against Portsmouth and when he lashed a piledriver volley towards Carson it evoked memories of Papa Bouba Diop in his prime. Clint Dempsey cut in from the left wing before firing a curling left foot shot over Carson, only to see it come back off the angle. Simon Davies and John Paintsil were getting plenty of space down the right wing but both struggled to get in a quality cross. Murphy, who by now was completely running the came, smacked another shot off the cross bar then sent a delightful ball towards Andy Johnson which forced West Brom defender Barnett into a goal bound back header. Scott Carson again earned his money just managing to palm it around the post for a corner.

Our last good chance of the half fell to Bobby Zamora but as he scooped his effort high over the bar I was beginning to think it might just be one of those days. Bobby was beginning to approach a number of minutes that would rival Van der Sar's record for maintaining a blank. Ten minutes into the second half and he had another good chance, side stepping a challenge in the area he lost his footing just as he'd broken free. This kicked off a minor kerfuffle as the Baggies defender thought it was a dive and Bobby didn't react well to the implication. This injected a bit of passion into the game and soon after we got our reward. A quick freekick from Murphy set Paintsil free down the right wing, his cross was flicked on by Johnson in the box and Zamora's there at the far post to tap in. The delight at the goal seemed to be as much due to Zamora breaking his drought as to the fact we'd taken the lead. Within a minute Zamora showed exactly how important confidence can be. He set Dempsey off on a run down the left wing and arrived on the edge of the penalty box in time to connect with the American's neat return pass. The first time volley flew inches over the bar but it was a great instinctive strike. Had it gone in the Hammy End may very well have exploded with joy.

Fulham looked completely in control now and we didn't have to wait long for a second. Another great pass from Murphy found Zamora rampaging forward again. His shot caught Carson full in the face and left the 'keeper helpless to prevent Andy Johnson from collecting the rebound, juggling it between his own feet, lighting a celebratory cigar and eventually tucking home the winner. A double substitution on 80 minutes saw the welcome return of Diomansey Kamara who came on with Nevland to replace Zamora and AJ. Possibly the first time this season Roy's actually had the luxury of two strikers on the bench. Man-of-the-match Murphy was also retired early, receiving a well deserved standing ovation as Olivier Dacourt came on. We almost made the last few minutes more nervy than they needed to be, as Hangeland conceded a penalty. From a distance it was difficult to see what he'd done wrong, but television replays suggest he did catch Bednar as the Baggies striker nipped past him. Schwarzer, who had actually made three or four excellent saves when the game was still in the balance, reacted well to keep the penalty out and ensure a perfect finish to the game.

Justification for the team selection at Old Trafford midweek and a boost of confidence ahead of Swansea's arrival for the Cup replay on Tuesday. We find ourselves in the lofty position of 8th but more significantly are only seven points short of the magic 40 point mark

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy (Dacourt 85), Etuhu, Dempsey, Johnson (Kamara 80), Zamora (Nevland 80) Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Kallio, Baird
Goals: Zamora 61, Johnson 72

West Brom: Carson, Zuiverloon, Meite, Barnett, Robinson, Morrison (Menseguez 77), Koren, Borja Valero, Filipe Teixeira (Brunt 50), Fortune (Bednar 81), Simpson Subs Not Used: Kiely, Cech, Moore, Martis
Booked: Robinson

Att: 22,394

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)

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