Louis Saha smashed a first-half hat-trick as Fulham put five past Barnsley to preserve their one hundred per cent First Division record in some style at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

The French forward has enjoyed a brilliant start to his second spell in English football although the visiting defence inexplicably allowed him all the time in the world to head home Fabrice Fernandes’ free-kick in the sixth minute to give Jean Tigana’s side the perfect start. Saha, who endured a difficult loan spell at Newcastle United eighteen months ago, was in the right place at the right time to ram home his second from close range after Barnsley goalkeeper Kevin Miller had done brilliantly to block a Barry Hayles effort.

Saha slammed home a penalty before the break to complete his treble after Miller had upended Bjarne Goldbaek in the penalty area as the visitors’ hopes of a profitable trip to the capital went up in smoke. Saha turned provider for Fulham’s fourth, sending in a low cross for his strike partner Hayles to convert with a modicum of fuss. A miserable day for the Tykes got even worse with Mitch Ward sent off and then, despite Matt Appleby’s consolation, Luis Boa Morte scored his third goal in as many league games with two minutes remaining.

Before this afternoon to forget, Barnsley had built an encouraging start to the season on having one of the division’s most miserly defences. But they might have shipped double figures against a rampant Fulham side, who were denied by several marvellous reflex saves from Miller, hit the frame of the goal twice and had a Lee Clark shot scrambled off the goal-line. By contrast, the visitors were largely anonymous as an attacking force until Applebly reduced the deficit in the second period with Mike Sheron squandering a very presentable chance in the first half.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Coleman; Davis, Clark (Lewis 79), Goldbaek (Hayward 71), Fernandes; Saha, Hayles (Boa Morte 64). Subs (not used): Hahnemann, W. Collins.

BOOKED: Coleman.

GOALS: Saha (6, 31 pen 45), Hayles (60), Boa Morte (90).

BARNSLEY (5-3-2): Miller; Morgan (Moses 45), Barnard, Corbo (Neil 57), O’Callaghan, Regan; van der Laan, Ward, Appleby; Sheron, Shipperley (Jones 69). Subs (not used): Walker, Woan.

BOOKED: Corbo, Miller, Moses, Ward.


GOAL: Appleby (73).

REFEREE: Andy Hall (West Midlands).