Luis Boa Morte’s brilliant brace secured all three points for Fulham against Charlton Athletic at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The Fulham skipper scored a cheeky free-kick to give the home side lead and then produced a brilliant individual goal to nudge Chris Coleman’s men in front again after Jason Euell had ended an eighteen-month goal drought to equalise. The precious three points take Fulham to 39 – all but ensuring their top flight survival.
Coleman was desperate for a reaction after a dismal defeat at home to Portsmouth followed the high of beating Chelsea here two weeks ago. Zat Knight nearly gave Fulham the perfect start when he headed Simon Elliott’s corner wide for six yards, but Boa Morte soon had the home fans out of their seats for the first team with a moment of genius. The Portugese winger surprised Thomas Mhyre by a low free-kick between the goalkeeper and the near post from wide out on the right with Charlton’s poorly positioned wall.
The shock of conceding such a soft goal seemed to enliven Alan Curbishley’s side who saw Radostin Kishishev denied by a brave block from Wayne Bridge before Euell snapped his scoring streak in controversial circumstances. Antti Niemi appeared to be impeded by the striker as he struggled to punch clear Darren Ambrose’s free-kick and Euell headed a cross from Hermann Hrediarsson past the Finish goalkeeper. Niemi remonstrated with Martin Atkinson to no avail as the goal was given.
The visitors were suddenly in the ascendancy. Niemi got down low to deny Darren Bent and Ambrose lashed a long-range effort fractionally over the crossbar. But Boa Morte turned the tide with a wonderful individual strike after receiving possession just over the half way line. He surged away from Chris Perry and Gonzalo Sorando as they backed off on the edge of the box and perfectly placed a finish past Myhre’s right hand into the bottom corner. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.
Papa Bouba Diop went close to extending Fulham’s lead further but the hosts were having real problems dealing with Charlton’s set plays. Darren Bent struck the crossbar from another one after Hreidarsson had been allowed to attack the ball beyond the far post and the England striker saw a shot deflected into Niemi’s arms on the stroke of half time.
The second half was not quite as open as what had preceded it – to the probable relief of both managers, if not the fans. Zat Knight diverted a drive from Hreidarsson before Charlton almost succumbed to another Boa Morte free-kick. This was, which was wickedly deflected past Mhyre, was scrambled off the line. The former Everton goalkeeper was almost embarrassed by a long-range effort from Diop that bounced up in front of him, but the danger was averted.
Charlton’s late push for a leveller saw Niemi make smart saves to deny Marcus Bent and Hreidarsson but Coleman’s men clung on to move that bit closer to safety.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Bridge, Knight, Pearce; Elliott (Christanval 63), Diop, Malbranque, Boa Morte; McBride, Helguson. Subs (not used): Crossley, Volz, Radzinski, John.
GOALS: Boa Morte (15, 30).
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-3-3): Myhre, Spector, Sorondo, Perry, Hreidarsson; Kishishev (Thomas 60), Holland (Bothroyd 80), Ambrose; Euell, M. Bent, D. Bent. Subs (not used): Andersen, Powell, Sankofa.
GOAL: Euell 26.
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Ref: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).