A brilliant brace from Andy Cole ensured Fulham celebrated their long-awaited return to Craven Cottage with a comfortable win over Bolton Wanderers this afternoon.
The veteran striker registered the 200th league goal of his career as Fulham turned in an adventurous display in the sunshine down by the River Thames. Fulham survived an early scare when Carlos Bocanegra afforded Jay-Jay Okocha far too much space inside the box in the very first minute and had to be bailed out by a brilliant reaction save from Edwin van der Sar.
The Whites quickly heeded that warning and Tomasz Radzinski almost made a dream start to his home debut, with the Canadian international linking up impressively with Cole and Claus Jensen being lashing a drive against the post from 15 yards. Papa Bouba Diop sent a free header wide from a corner – but Fulham didn’t have to wait long for the opener.
A Jensen corner came all the way through to Zat Knight, whose powerful strike ricocheted through a forest of players and bounced in off Cole, who claimed the final touch close to the goal-line. Danish midfielder Jensen, a summer signing from Charlton, was running the show in midfield and played through Collins John ten minutes before half-time but the Dutch teenager couldn’t replicate his fine finish at Manchester City, shooting wide with just Jussi Jaaskelainen to beat.
There was another let off for Bolton when Ivan Campo’s slack back pass was intercepted by Cole, who surged through on goal and rolled a shot against the post when he seemed certain to score. Bolton worked hard but only threatened through long-range efforts from Campo and Kevin Nolan before the break.
Fulham continued to hold the ascendancy in the second half, with the imposing Diop slicing wide when Cole had picked him out in the six yard box. Rampaging full-back Moritz Volz might have made the points safe with a rising drive from outside the box was tipped over the bar at full stretch by Jaaskelainen, but Cole put clear water between the sides with eight minutes left.
Jensen was again the architect with a raking through ball allowing Cole to accelerate away from the Bolton defence and fire a cool finish between Jaaskelainen’s legs to ensure Fulham’s competitive return to the Cottage was a happy one.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Goma; Diop, Legwinski, Jensen (Pembridge 85); John (Boa Morte 65), Radzinski (McBride 69), Cole. Subs (not used): Crossley, Pearce.
GOALS: Cole (5, 82).
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Gardner (Hierro 75), N’Gotty, Cesar; Campo (Barness 55), Speed, Nolan; Okocha, Pedersen (Giannakopoulos 51), Davies. Subs (not used): Poole, Ben Haim.
REFEREE: Rob Styles (Hampshire).