Papa Bouba Diop and Luis Boa Morte scored the goals that beat Blackburn Rovers at Craven Cottage this afternoon as Fulham handed their home fans an early Christmas present.
Chris Coleman’s men were in complete control from the off and it was a surprise that it took as long as first half stoppage time for Diop to give them the lead when he powered home a header from Boa Morte’s free-kick. The Portuguese winger wasted no time in doubling Fulham’s lead at the start of the second half, which meant they could comfortable survive Zat Knight’s unfortunate own goal in injury-time at the end of the game.
Knight nodded a threatening David Bentley cross over his own bar in the early exchanges, but Fulham were dominant in possession if struggling to create clear-cut chances. Brad Friedel did brilliantly to turn Collins John’s dipping header over his own bar midway through the first half and Boa Morte nearly found Brian McBride with a dangerous low ball in but the cross flashed across the face of goal.
Blackburn should have gone ahead when, on a rare foray forward, Bentley’s cross found Brett Emerton free at the back post but the Australian midfielder headed into the side netting from five yards out. The visitors were punished for that miss when Diop stole in front of Andy Todd to head in Boa Morte’s free-kick right at the end of the first half. The home side’s cohesion was briefly lost when the Senegalese midfielder limped off just after the break but Boa Morte put them firmly on track for a precious three points by tucking home Heidar Helguson’s cross after the Icelandic international worked a clever one-two with Steed Malbranque.
Rovers briefly threatened a revival when Pedersen’s powerful free-kick bounced down off the underside of the crossbar and Mark Hughes was furious after Paul Dickov’s dangerous run behind the Fulham defence was thwarted by a delayed offside flag. The Scottish forward took out his frustration on Tomasz Radzinski and was booked for his late tackle, before threatening Fulham’s lead again in the closing stages. He almost curled in a fine strike from the edge of the area and drew a good save from Crossley before Knight put through his own net at the death.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Crossley; Leacock, Rosenior, Knight, Goma; Diop (Legwinski 49), Christanval, Radzinski, Boa Morte (Elrich 90); McBride, John (Helguson 35). Subs (not used): Warner, Pearce.
BOOKED: Helguson, Knight, Radzinski, McBride.
GOALS: Diop (45), Boa Morte (52).
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-5-1): Friedel; Neill, Khizanishvili, Todd, Gray; Emerton (Kuqi 57), Tugay, Savage, Pedersen (Thompson 76), Bentley; Dickov. Subs (not used): Enckelman, Mokoena, Reid.
BOOKED: Bentley, Dickov, Tugay, Neill.
GOAL: Knight (o.g. 90).
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham).