French midfielder Steed Malbranque scored a superb hat-trick as Fulham cruised past Charlton Athletic to book a place in the FA Cup fifth round this afternoon.
Malbranque, easily Fulham’s most consistent performer in his first season in English football last term, was the classiest player on the pitch as Jean Tigana’s eased to a comfortable victory in a London derby that proved to be hopelessly one-sided. The Whites had the better of a tight contest but had to wait until just before the hour mark for the French under-21 international midfielder to conjure up some of his magic.
Fulham’s diminutive playmaker finally broke Charlton’s stubborn resistance by rifling in a powerful drive from fourteen yards and the technically-gifted midfielder was irrepressible after that. He scored his second six minutes later from the penalty spot after Luke Young had fouled Luis Boa Morte and completed the perfect afternoon with another spot-kick after Mark Fish had been dismissed for hauling down Facundo Sava in the area.
Tigana’s side were in control from the first whistle with Sylvain Legwinski heading an early Malbranque corner just over the crossbar. Sean Davis, watched by England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, surged into the box but saw the power taken out of shot by a brilliant tackle from Jason Euell. Shaun Barlett and Euell both barely tested Taylor with tame efforts before Scott Parker burst down the left flank, checked inside and delivered an inch-perfect cross only for Young to head straight at Taylor’s feet rather than either side of the Fulham goalkeeper.
Jonatan Johansson spurned a superb chance for the Addicks immediately after half time when he beat Alain Goma to a flick on by Barlett but spooned his shot high over the bar and into the travelling supporters. Charlton were made to pay in the 58th minute when a brilliant run from Boa Morte saw the Portuguese winger sprint sixty yards down the left wing before picking out Malbranque, who finished with aplomb.
Johansson shot onto the roof of the net as Charlton tried to muster an immediate response, but they were soon two goals down after Young halted another dangerous Boa Morte burst by tripping the winger as he turned inside the box. Malbranque sent Kiely the wrong way from the spot and then fired another spot-kick straight down the middle after Fish had received his marching orders for pulling down Sava.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Djetou (Knight 84), Harley, Melville, Goma; Davis, Legwinski, Malbranque (Goldbaek 87), Boa Morte; Sava, Marlet. Subs (not used): Herrera, Inamoto, Hammond.
GOALS: Malbranque (59, pen 66, pen 87)
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Kiely; Young (Fortune 72), Rufus, Fish, Konchesky; Kishishev, Parker (Svensson 77), Jensen (Bart-Williams 72), Euell; Bartlett, Johansson. Subs (not used): Rachubka, Powell.
BOOKED: Jensen, Young, Konchesky.
SENT OFF: Fish.
REFEREE: Paul Durkin (Dorset).