A routine win for Fulham at Ewood Park offered more evidence of their eye-catching emergence under the stewardship of Chris Coleman. The young Welsh manager, who swapped Lancashire for London when the Whites were in the Second Division back in 2001, outwitted the vastly more experienced Graeme Souness by utilising the pace of Luis Boa Morte and Louis Saha to full effect. Rovers had no answer to Fulham’s game plan – and the comfortable victory saw the visitors leapfrog their hosts to move seventh in the Premier League table.
A third home defeat in four was hardly what Souness would have envisaged as a response to a disappointing UEFA Cup reverse in midweek, but Fulham quickly assumed control having been let off the hook when the normally reliable Andy Cole fired way over the bar having turned away from Alain Goma. The visitors took advantage of that moment of fortune in the fifth minute when Steed Malbranque skated away from Vladimir Gresko and put a simple finish on a plate for the in-form Luis Boa Morte.
Brett Emerton drove wide after a strong run as the hosts sought to raise the tempo, but the Australian was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he appeared to have felled Boa Morte in the box. The Portuguese forward and Saha looked dangerous on the break for Fulham, but they were largely restricted to long range efforts with Junichi Inamoto seeing one venomous drive bravely blocked by Gresko.
Promising moments for Blackburn were few and far between on a frustrating afternoon. David Thompson rather summed up the home side’s malaise when he did brilliantly to get past Moritz Volz but then powered his shot disappointingly wide. Fulham got the crucial second just after the break, when Inamoto lifted a ball over the top of the Blackburn defence and Saha latched onto the ball, jinking away from the lumbering Lorenzo Amoroso as the Italian attempted to haul him down and beating Brad Friedel brilliantly from the edge of the box.
Only at 2-0 down did Souness spark Rovers into life, sending on Corrado Grabbi to supplement the attack. Edwin van der Sar made a magnificent save to foil Emerton’s 25-yarder and Grabbi and Thompson combined cleverly but the eventual close narrowly eluded Matt Jansen. Cole was culpable at the end, again, firing against the top of the crossbar, but Blackburn deserved little from a game that Fulham dominated.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-2): Friedel, Martin Taylor, Amoruso, Babbel (Johansson 28), Gresko (Grabbi 58); Emerton, Ferguson (Tugay 58), Flitcroft, Thompson; Cole, Jansen. Subs (not used): Kelly, Yorke.
BOOKED: Flitcroft, Tugay.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar, Volz (Leacock 45), Bonnissel, Goma, Knight; Pembridge, Inamoto, Clarke; Malbranque, Boa Morte (Buari 84), Saha. Subs (not used): Crossley, Melville, Djetou.
BOOKED: Inamoto, Knight, Leacock, Boa Morte.
GOAL: Boa Morte (5), Saha (55).
REFEREE: Matt Messias (North Yorkshire).