Steed Malbranque scored an important equaliser to save Fulham from FA Cup embarrassment against First Division Burnley at Loftus Road this afternoon.
The French midfielder, who scored a hat-trick to steer Jean Tigana’s side past Charlton in round four, volleyed home just before half-time to prevent the Premiership side exiting the world’s oldest club competition after Alan Moore had scored a sensational individual goal to gave the Clarets hope of pulling off one of the shocks of the round. Burnley will still fancy completing the job at Turf Moor in the replay.
Moore seized on a sloppy pass from Sean Davis to send the 3,000 travelling fans into ecstasy after just three minutes. Moore reached the loose ball ahead of Steve Finnan, jinked inside Andy Melville and slid a low finish under goalkeeper Maik Taylor to give Stan Ternant’s side a dream start in Shepherd’s Bush. Fulham pressed for an equaliser with Facundo Sava firing off target and Louis Saha shot over from Facundo Sava’s flick on before the Argentinian striker sent his own header a couple of yards wide.
Davis sliced a shot wide from eighteen and then erupted in fury after Graham Poll penalised him for diving when he appeared to be caught by Graham Branch in the box. Just as it appeared as though the visitors would make it through to half time with their slender lead intact, Malbranque lashed in his seventh goal in the last five games to level matters. He volleyed expertly past Marlon Beresford after collecting an Ian Cox clearance to ease a few nerves amongst the sparse Fulham support.
Fulham had the better of the second period but failed to find a winner. Davis delivered a superb 50-yard pass to release substitute Steve Marlet down the right flank, but when the French international fed his compatriot in the box Saha’s shot was bravely blocked. Marlet then fired into the side netting after cutting in from the right wing and then saw a header from Malbranque’s floated cross well gathered by Beresford.
The Whites laid siege to the Division One outfit’s goal in the closing stages but Ternant’s side hung on to earn a replay. Davis drilled fractionally wide from distance after running through the Clarets midfield and Beresford breathed a huge sigh of relief when Malbranque failed to find the target from long range with the otherwise excellent goalkeeper well out of position.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Harley, Goma, Melville; S. Davis, Djetou, Goldbaek (Marlet 45) Malbranque; Sava (Inamoto 72), Saha. Subs (not used): Herrera, Ouaddou, Wome.
GOAL: Malbranque (45).
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Beresford, West, Diallo, Cox, Branch, Ian Moore, Grant, Cook (McGregor 82), Briscoe, A. Moore (Weller 77), Taylor. Subs (not used): Michopoulos, Blake, Papadopoulos.
GOAL: A. Moore (4).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Hertfordshire).