Nine games played, nine wins. It isn’t too shabby a start to Jean Tigana’s first managerial posting outside France. Fulham outclassed another of their promotion rivals on their own turf this afternoon and Bolton boss Sam Allardyce was honest enough to acknowledge the gulf in class between his side and their opponents in the post-match press conference. What made this victory, which the Whites made look routine, was that Tigana was missing his talisman: compatriot Louis Saha through injury.

The depth of resources at Tigana’s disposal was demonstrated by the seamless way in which Luis Boa Morte, loaned from Southampton in the summer, stepped into Saha’s shoes. The Portuguese’s commitment to replacing the top scorer even extended to firing Fulham in front in the first ten seconds after Anthony Barness saw his punt forward charged down by Barry Hayles and Mark Fish’s brave blocking of Lee Clark’s shot rebounded kindly for Boa Morte.

There was no way back for Bolton after that crushing blow, however physical Allardyce’s side tried to to be. Only a sensational goalkeeping performance from Jussi Jaaskelainen, gearing up to face England in a World Cup qualifier in ten days, kept the deficit in single figures. The Finn foiled Boa Morte and Clark in quick succession before producing outstanding stops to keep long-range efforts from Fabrice Fernandes, Boa Morte and Clark – once more.

Bolton were restricted to hopeful efforts from range, with Maik Taylor adequately dealing with the best of them from Dean Holdsworth, and this was a classical counter-attacking performance from Fulham, who showed a different side to the possession-hungry one we’ve seen for most of the early weeks of the season. Tigana’s side were disciplined here and happy for Wanderers to have the ball where they posed little threat and the manner of this victory was summed up by the way the clinching goal arrived in the aftermath of a Bolton long throw.

Taylor took a breath and bowled the ball to Boa Morte, who was as full of running in the 85th minute as he had been in the very first minute. He run half of the length of the pitch and, rather than be despondent after Jaaskelainen won another duel between the pair, popped up to roll in the rebound and seal all three points. Two realistic Bolton fans put it best afterwards as they walked away. ‘We’ve just seen the champions – they were light years ahead of us’. You couldn’t disagree with that assessment.

BOLTON WANDERERS (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Barness (Charlton 67), O’Kane, Bergsson, Fish; Passi, Frandsen, Farrelly; Hansen (Rankin 73), Ricketts, D. Holdsworth (Marshall 60). Subs (not used): Banks, Nolan.

BOOKED: Barness, Frandsen, D. Holdsworth.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Trollope, Melville, Coleman; Collins, Clark, Goldbaek, Fernandes; Saha, Boa Morte. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Symons, W. Collins, Lewis, Hammond.

BOOKED: Trollope, Boa Morte, Finnan, J. Collins.

GOALS: Boa Morte (1, 85).

REFEREE: Anthony Bates (Staffordshire).