I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to the few of you who might have been coming back here recently hoping for a bit more Fulham news and views. My two internet connections have been lost for the past couple of weeks and I’ve had enough of screaming at the computer to get it back up and running. While I’ve been away, it’s been pretty eventful.
First up came the draw at Wigan, which wouldn’t have been a bad result had you offered to me before kick-off. However, having led for the best part of seventy minutes it turned into another depressing draw as we conceded a late equaliser. I’d imagine that it would be something mental now, rather than late lapses in concentration. Hameur Bouazza had an excellent game, was outstanding down the wing, but did he really have to dive in desperately on Mario Melchiot like that? It was a clusmy tackle and there could be no complaints about the penalty award.
What there were complaints about was the way we failed to kill off a lacklustre Wigan side. I believe the last time we won a game by more than a single goal was that crazy afternoon that we put six past West Brom, which is more than two seasons’ ago. After Wigan had lost Heskey – so key to England’s progress in the international week just gone – to injury, we had the majority of the play. Diomansy Kamara made the goal with a strong determined run and, with a bit of luck, the ball found it’s way to Dempsey, who finished with the kind of composure that made you wonder why he didn’t put away the other chances that came his way.
There was then, of course, the departure of the ‘Supposed Special One’ from Stamford Bridge. I find it utterly captivating, listening to distraught Walham Green Dog Track FC fans ringing in to radio phone-ins moaning. They criticised Abramovic, Mourinho and even Ken Bates. The appointment of Avram Grant as Mourinho’s successor was certainly surprising, given that he’s never managed outside Israel, and the disarray in the camp increases our chances of getting something from the Bridge this weekend. As would the possibility of John Terry picking up a suspension for interfering with the referee’s decision to send off Mikel at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Then, like before, came another 3-3 draw at the Cottage. It was one of those brilliant end-to-end games that was a great advert for the Premiership, if not for defensive solidity. Having skilfully decided not to lambast Bouazza for the concession of that costly penalty at the JJB Stadium, I can now laud him to the heavens for the workrate and athleticism that took him from scrapping for the ball by his own corner flag down to the Manchester City byline. It wa sone of hell of a team move and typified the bite we seem to have picked up under Sanchez. And there was a Simon Davies header to boot.
But being 1-0 up doesn’t seem to suit Fulham at all. We charitably allowed City back into it, despite having had the better of the opening half an hour. Whilst Chris Baird was beaten a little too easily for plenty of people’s liking by the scorer Marian Petrov, the ultimate culprit was Antti Niemi, who still looks shaky between the sticks. The ball trickled under his body and the Finn – who had been so impressive since his confidence was shaken by a couple of horrible injuries – suddenly looks a little vulnerable in goal.
The second half was enthralling stuff. It began with a thunderbolt of a free-kick from Bouazza, with little bend or finesse, just power that rocketed past young Kasper Schmeichel. Unfortunately, that seemed to spur City into life. Petrov made the equaliser again, this time tormenting Aaron Hughes before smashing a shot which Niemi did well to block but the rebound was perfect for Emile Mpenza to head home from close range. Even after that lovely goal, City took it up a notch. They played some beautiful football which culminated in a second for Petrov, who drove home with relish after swapping passing with the impressive Brazilian Elano.
Just as we were contemplating another defeat, salvation came in the form of substitute Danny Murphy. A long punt upfield from Niemi was well won in the air by Seol Ki-Hyeon and the ball broke to Kamara. A clever little touch from the centre forward found the advancing Murphy who cooly beat the goalkeeper to rorars of approval (or was that relief?). We might have snatched a wainner, with Murphy going close again in the closing stages, but a point was something to celebrate.
Any comments on that Manchester City game would be incomplete without a word on Seol, who looked absolutely breathtaking in the second half. A couple of mazy dribbles that must have taken him past three or four defenders were mightily impressive and reminiscent of a young Steed. He also seems to have boundless enthusiasm and (as already mentioned) isn’t afraid of an aerial challenge – indeed, his header led to that Murphy equaliser. Bravo my son.
We’ve got Bolton in the League Cup tonight and that should be interesting for two reasons. One, Sanchez has pledged to take the cup competitions more seriously than Coleman this season and I can’t thank him enough. Secondly, though, it would be inconceivable for him to field a strong first-team side just three days before we travel to the Bridge for the biggest game of our season so far. So, it’ll most likely be a combination of first-teamers and fringe players who’ll have to scrap for their lives against Sammy Lee’s side.
See you later – although hopefully a lot sooner than last time!