Fulham were held to a goalless draw by Danish outfit HB Køge in their first pre-season friendly this afternoon. Martin Jol’s side made most of the running but were denied by a contribution of fine goalkeeping from Morten Haastrup Jensen and some wayward finishing in Leipzig.
Jol selected an experimental side for the first match of Fulham’s tour of Germany, with Academy graduate Alex Brister making his first first-team appearance at right back. Marcel Gecov anchored the midfield, with youngsters Alex Kacaniklic, Laurie Dalla Valle and Marcello Trotta also starting. Mark Schwarzer captained the team but had a largely quiet afternoon, apart from fielding an early Nicolaj Madsen header.
Matthew Briggs, who played the first 45 minutes before being replaced by John Arne Riise at half-time, made plenty of energetic forays down the left flank and produced a couple of teasing crosses but there were few clear cut chances as HB Køge, who are a fortnight away from the start of their domestic season, managed to resist sustained Fulham pressure with defensive discipline. Towards the end of the first half, the Danish defence nearly buckled but Jensen produced a fine save to keep out Trotta’s instinctive volley.
Jol switched his entire side around at half-time giving first Fulham appearances to new signings Sascha Riechter and Mladen Petric but Steve Sidwell’s long-awaited return from a hernia operation lasted just fifteen minutes before he was withdrawn as a precaution. One of the substitutes, Buomesca Tué Na Bangna, wasted little time in showcasing just why he’s so highly rated at Motspur Park. The Portuguese youth international went on a number of mazy dribbles, one of which culminated with a shot that was deflected wide, and Riise’s powerful drive was aimed straight at the unbeatable Jensen in the Køge goal. The Danes might have snatched an unforgettable victory themselves had the impressive Madsen not dragged a shot wide from a great position.
Petric quickly got himself involved in the game, making a number of threatening runs, and was perhaps unfortunate not to mark his debut with a goal. Twice the Croat came close to scoring from set plays. Firstly, he was fractions away from making contact with a fizzing Riise free-kick from left and, with eight minutes to play, Petric headed Frei’s inviting corner over the bar. The 31 year-old sent another header over as timed ticked away, while Riise spurned a great chance to grab a late winner when he failed to find the target when clean through on goal at the death.
Early pre-season friendlies are more about building up fitness than recording wins although Jol will be anxious for his side to step up a gear when they face Lokomotiv Leipzig on Wednesday evening.
HB KOGE (4-4-2): Jensen; Rubin, M Rochester, T. Christensen, Madsen; Kaagh, Nicklaw, L Rochester, M Christensen; Rømer, Richter.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer (Stockdale 45); Brister (Riether 45), Briggs (J.A. Riise 45), Baird (Hughes 45), Halliche (Hangeland); Etuhu (Diarra 45), Gecov (Sidwell 45, Baird 60), Davies (Frei 45), Kacaniklic (Dembele 45); Dalla Valle (Bangna 45), Trotta (Petric 45).