They might have a new manager and a team with a mix of unknown names and more famaliar, but for a while history looked set to repeat itself at Plainmoor. Fulham have always struggled on the English Rivieria, winning just three of ten matches against Torquay, and Chris Coleman’s new-look eleven had to endure a first-half scare before playing some sparkling football to begin their pre-season preparations in style.
Louis Saha, so devastating in Fulham’s 2000-01 promotion campaign, rediscovered his touch in front of goal, scoring twice as the visitors, whose team included Edwin van der Sar, Steed Malbranque and Sylvain Legwinski, ran out comfortable winners in the end. They were made to work hard, though, during a first half, which was even. Torquay, managed by former Fulham forward Leroy Rosenior, were not overrawed by their Premiership opponents and could have gone in front before Malik Buari, the Whites’ highly rated young winger, cut in from the run and chipped van Heusden in the Gulls’ goal with a superb solo strike.
Torquay came back strongly, earning a dubious penalty almost immediately after the restart. However, Alex Russell could not give the hosts’ the equaliser their persistence deserved, as van der Sar guessed correctly, diving away to his right to pull off a stunning save. Torquay did eventually get their goal, though, on 32 minutes when Michael Gritton took advantage of some slack marking to head home a left-wing cross.
Both Coleman and Rosenior changed personnel at half-time, with virtually two new teams emerging for the second half. The visitors went back in front after Argentinean striker Facundo Sava finished off a flowing move down the left. Luis Boa Morte played Sava in and the forward kept his nerve to make it 2-1.
Zesh Rehman, who took his place alongside another Academy graduate Daniel Stratford, who began at right-back, played in Saha for Fulham’s third, with the Frenchman heading home Rehman’s cross after the impressive midfielder had worked a neat one-two. Saha rounded off the scoring in the 76th minute after Rehman found Junichi Inamoto and the Japanese international’s measured cross was perfect for Saha to guide his second header into the net.
Coleman said afterwards: “It was a good workout. The temperature made it a tricky game and the ball was sticking a lot but we improved at the match went on. I was especially pleased with the link-up play we were producing in the second half.”
TORQUAY UNITED (4-4-2): Van Heusden; Hazell, Canoville, Taylor, Hankin; Bedeau, Fowler, Russell, Broad, Gritton, Kuffour.
GOAL: Gritton (32).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar (Taylor 45); Stratford, Hudson (Knight 45), Djetou (Goma 45), Green (Harley 45); Buari (Inamoto 45), Legwinski (Davis 45), Clark (Rehman 45), Malbranque (Boa Morte 45); Hayles (Sava 45), Hammond (Saha 45).
GOALS: Buari (23), Sava (55), Saha (69, 76).