Fulham scored three goals in a devastating five-minute second half spell as they put more clear water between themselves and the relegation zone by beating West Bromwich Albion at Loftus Road this evening.
Both sides missed a host of chances in the first 70 minutes before Jean Tigana’s team found the finishing touch in front of goal and couldn’t stop scoring. Lee Hughes – who is still yet to score a top flight goal – was denied by a fine Maik Taylor save early on whilst Louis Saha somehow contrived to miss his kick entirely when presented with a glorious opportunity to beat Russell Hoult from close range.
Perennial Fulham transfer target Jason Koumas showed his class by slaloming away from three defenders before sending a shot right across the face of goal. Steed Malbranque then produced a brilliant run of his own and cut a precise cross back to Saha, who once again failed to get a telling connection on his shot. The loose ball ran to Steve Marlet, who saw his effort bravely blocked by Darren Moore, and the Baggies breathed a sigh of relief when Junichi Inamoto screwed the follow-up wide.
The unlucky Saha then inadvertently blocked a goalbound Malbranque drive before seeing his chip over Hoult cleared off the line by Phil Gilchrist. Koumas then sent Hughes through on goal a minute later but the forward showed none of the composure he displayed in these sort of positions when scoring for fun in Division One and Taylor was able to block the resultant shot easily after standing up tall.
Perhaps an indication of where Hughes’ head is at came shortly after the half-time break. He surged onto a forward ball from Neil Clement and had the beating of Abdes Ouaddoh but instead of going for goal, threw himself to the turf looking for a penalty. Referee Uriah Rennie rightly waved away the audacious appeals. That piece of simulation proved to be a telling moment for Gary Megson’s men.
Saha atoned for his succession of personal misses in front of goal by opening the scoring with a close-range header after drifting away from Gilchrist to meet Malbranque’s cross. Pierre Wome wellied in a blistering free-kick to double Fulham’s advantage two minutes later. Malbranque made sure of the points by slotting home a penalty after Saha had been fouled in the box.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Wome, Melville, Goma (Ouaddoh 45); Djetou, Inamoto, Malbranque (Stolcers 89), Marlet; Sava, Saha. Subs (not used): Herrera, Leacock, Goldbaek.
GOALS: Saha (72), Wome (74), Malbranque (pen 77).
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (5-3-2): Hoult; A. Chambers, Gregan, Moore, Gilchrist, Clement (Udeze 90), Wallwork, McInnes, Koumas; Dichio (Jordao 80), Hughes (Dobie 71). Subs (not used): Murphy, Sigurdsson.
BOOKED: A. Chambers, Gregan.
REFEREE: Uriah Rennie (South Yorkshire).