Two outstanding strikes from Morten Gamst Pedersen and Tugay secured a 2-1 win for Blackburn Rovers over Fulham at Ewood Park this afternoon.
Mark Hughes’ side dominated this encounter and fully merited the three points but Chris Coleman could reflect on the fact that Fulham might not have better goals scored against them all season. Rovers were much more enterprising than expected in the final third given the absence of the injured Craig Bellamy and the banned Paul Dickov – assuming full control after Luis Boa Morte’s early long-range effort had stung the palms of Brad Friedel.
Brett Emerton should have done better than horribly miscue his shot from fifteen yards out and Pedersen fired an early warning shot when he drove fractionally wide, but the Norwegian winger gave Blackburn the lead with a beautiful volley. Having been perfectly picked out by Shefqi Kuqi’s far-post cross, Pedersen crashed an unstoppable strike in off the underside of the crossbar.
The home side really should have been out of sight by half time. Kuqi shot wide from twelve yards after Zat Knight had failed to clear a Dominic Matteo cross and when Tony Warner juggled a powerful drive from Robbie Savage, Fulham were thankful that Niclas Jensen cleared the danger before Kuqi could turn home. Those misses meant Fulham were still in the contest and Friedel prevented them from snatching an equaliser before the break when he showed all of his agility to tip over a header from Papa Bouba Diop.
The visitors were level at the start of the second period, even if it was still very much against the run of play. Steed Malbranque caught Rovers napping with a quick free-kick and Niclas Jensen’s cross was clinically converted by McBride, who had snuck ahead of Andy Todd. Fulham’s position of parity was undeserved, but it took a sensational strike from Tugay to prise the points from them. The Turkish veteran hammered a howitzer of a volley past Warner after being found by Pedersen to put Rovers back in front. The hosts almost made it a hat-trick of wondergoals late on but Lucas Neill’s left-footed long ranger came back off the crossbar.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-5-1): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo; Tugay, Emerton (Flitcroft 90), Savage, Reid, Pedersen; Kuqi. Subs (not used): Enckelman, Gresko, Gallagher, Johnson.
BOOKED: Reid, Savage.
GOALS: Pedersen (15), Tugay (71).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner; Volz, N. Jensen, Knight, Rehman; Diop, C. Jensen, Malbranque, Boa Morte; McBride (Helguson 81), Radzinski (John 81). Subs (not used): Batista, Leacock, Elrich.
BOOKED: Diop, John.
GOAL: McBride (47).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).