Norwich City 0-0 Fulham: Player ratings

by Dan on February 10, 2013

This wasn’t the most watchable game – and that’s putting it mildly – but picking up points after an impressive showing at home to Manchester United would have been a priority for Martin Jol as Fulham head into a crucial part of the season. While the manager bemoaned the lack of a creative spark to trouble Norwich, he would have been far more satisfied with another disciplined defensive display and a first clean sheet in fourteen games. There’s plenty to build on prior to the visit of Stoke City in a fortnight and, more importantly, a couple of weeks to integrate Jol’s new signings into the side down at Motspur Park.

Schwarzer: Another assured display from the Australian goalkeeper. Commanded his defence well and came for a number of high balls into the box as Fulham’s defensive line began to drift deeper towards the end. Made one sharp save from Becchio in the first half and fielded a couple of speculative strikes from range with ease. The only minor quibble was a weak punch from a late corner which eventually found Elliott Bennett, but this was on a whole other level to some of his shakier early season displays. 7

Manolev: The Bulgarian defender wasn’t expecting to make his Fulham debut yesterday afternoon – having had to make the journey up to Norwich in a taxi when Sascha Riether and Chris Baird pulled out with a virus. Given how dependable Riether has been at right back, it is a testament to Manolev’s ability that he stepped in at short notice and was an excellent understudy for the German. Composed in possession, he only let Bennett and Garrido get beyond him once – in the early stages – and linked well with Ruiz down the right. The only down side was his crossing, but this was a very encouraging first showing. 7

Senderos: Solid and physical this was as good as last week’s performance without the match-altering mistake that let in Wayne Rooney. Picked probably to deal with the aerial ability of Grant Holt, the Swiss defender found himself coping with Luciano Becchio instead and nullified the threat of the former Leeds striker well. Made sensible decisions, saw a lot of the ball and comfortably eased in the new right back. Excellent. 7

Hangeland: Played through the pain of an Achilles injury that is still troubling him. Hangeland was imposing in the air, despite conceding a few fouls to the battling Becchio, but never looked in any danger. Made a couple of important blocks and saw a lot of the ball – having 80 touches, second only to Berbatov in the entire Fulham side. With a bit more luck an adventurous run into the Norwich box might have brought more reward in the second half but this was another display to suggest that the skipper might be back to his commanding best. 7

Riise: Arguably one of Riise’s best performances of what has been a below-par season. Struggled to get forward as his normally does, offering just one excellent cross that was a fraction too high for Berbatov early in the second period, but waged an intriguing battle with Robert Snodgrass, who was Norwich’s main wide threat. Defensive disciplined and sensible in possession, the Norwegian would be a first choice at left back were he to maintain this kind of form. 7

Frimpong: A difficult debut to assess for the Arsenal loanee, who was surprisingly preferred to Karagounis given the Greek’s great form over the past few weeks. Started off strongly, muscling the ball off the Norwich midfield and providing the kind of physicality Fulham have badly missed since Diarra’s knee injury. Perhaps understandably, Frimpong looked a little unsure about his positioning at times and wasn’t quite the same after picking up a silly yellow card – showing signs of the indiscipline that marred his most recent run in the Arsenal first team. 6

Sidwell: A welcome return for Fulham’s most consistent midfielder. Quieter than usual yesterday, Sidwell was frequently found in a deeper position quelling the attacking instincts of Wes Hoolahan, who threatened to disrupt Fulham’s shape by playing in the hole behind Becchio. Sidwell frequently dropped even deeper than that to collect the ball off the two centre backs and regularly started Fulham’s attacks. Rarely ventured near the Norwich box but, on the one occasion he did, crashed a powerful shot from range that was creeping inside the near post before Mark Bunn clawed it away. 7

Ruiz: Once again struggled as a wide man in a conventional 4-4-2, often appearing on the margins of the game rather than running it as  he can do when played through the middle. Neat and tidy if rather anonymous in the first half, he flourished as Fulham started the second period the stronger having been switched temporarily into a more fluid central role. Seemed to fade as the game went on, perhaps due to his international exertions, but still came close to scoring with a venomous drive that was goalbound before striking Bassong’s throat. 6

Duff: Full of the usual tireless running and unimpeachable defensive work but you got the feeling that Fulham failed to get the ball to him with enough regularity. Provided the visitors’ brightest moment in the first half when a feint found him half a yard inside the box, but his early short was deflected behind by the recovering Turner. Linked the play cleverly for Sidwell’s piledriver, but wasn’t involved enough to really influence the game beyond that. 6

Berbatov: Returned after his hamstring injury but was soon back on the treatment table after taking a bang to the nose from Bradley Johnson inside the first 90 seconds, which set the tone for a frustrating afternoon. The link between defence and attack, Berbatov scuttled around the pitch, dropping far too deep at times for a centre forward, leaving Fulham unable to take advantage of his clever passes, touches and pirouettes. Barely managed a shot and his below-par contribution was summed up by two disappointing crosses that sailed into the stand. 6

Rodallega: Plenty of effort but very little in the way of an end product. Struggled to impose himself on Norwich’s two strong centre backs, often locked in aerial duels for the scraps of possession that came his way, and had little opportunity to utilise his best asset: that burst of acceleration. Needed Berbatov or Ruiz to get closer to him to provide Fulham with more of a cutting edge up front – you sense Jol will soon have to make a decision about his best combination up front. 6

Substitutes:

Emmanuelson: Got 25 minutes once it became clear that Frimpong’s afternoon might have ended early due to a second yellow card and briefly enlivened a dull game. It’s clear to see why AC Milan are so keen to have him back in the summer – the Dutch midfielder displayed a brilliant touch to evade some would-be tacklers, showed some clever close control in tight areas, and had enough pace to carry the ball forward with purpose. Must be close to a start on this evidence. 7

Petric: Once again introduced as a late substitute, the Croatian had little service to work with but showed an inclination to run the channels that would have been a useful option earlier. Given the way he started the season – against Norwich ironically enough – it’s a real surprise he hasn’t had more game time so far this season. 6

Dejagah: Sent on in injury-time for a tired Ruiz, the Iranian only had time to scamper down the touchline and win a free-kick which Fulham failed to convert. 6

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