Roy Hodgson described yesterday’s point at Sunderland as ‘a good zero zero’ on MOTD2 last night, which proves that there’s something Italian about him. This was almost your archetypal Serie A performance, which proves why British TV companies have stopped queuing up to screen Italian football of late. Fulham were all the things you expect away from home now. Organised, disciplined, determined and tough to break down, which is quite some turnaround from the shambles Hodgson inherited.
We still can’t seem to win away from home now. It’s something that holds back our bid to gain a permanent place in the top ten rather than temporarily joining English football’s elite and being commended for ‘overachieving’ rather than being recognised as an established top flight side after nine years. Just the opening day win at Portsmouth, which at least got the awayday monkey off our backs early, and – apart from a couple of promising counter-attacks, we didn’t look like scoring at Sunderland.
No matter. We normally concede up there, especially to Kenwyne Jones, but Fulham managed to successfully nullify the threat that both he and Darren Bent, no longer as lethal in front of goal as he seemed to be at the start of the season, posed. It was only when the clever Bolo Zenden appeared in the second half that Sunderland threatened to get in behind us, but Fulham were stoical in the face of a late home onslaught.
Having criticised Dickson Etuhu for not being at the level we had come to expect from him since he returned to the team from the African Nations Cup, I’ve got to commend his performance yesterday. He broke up the play diligently and ferried the ball onto his fellow midfielders eagerly. You sense that Sunderland away was just the game that Etuhu was bought for, particularly with two tenacious tacklers in Cattermole and Cana starting in central midfield for the Black Cats. The importance of Etuhu’s contribution can be seen from just how deep he played most of his passes – sitting in front of the Fulham defence, guarding them and finding a team-mate:
Fulham didn’t exactly create much going forward, which may have been a cause for concern for some, but not to Roy. He’ll have known that, after a tough trip to Donetsk and with some weary legs in his side, the first priority was stopping Sunderland. There was some bright link-up play between Gera and Zamora and we looked most dangerous when Simon Davies ventured infield. He played two delicious lofted through balls, one which landed on Zamora’s head, and the other that just eluded the striker. If Davies is returning to the sort of form that punctuated our Great Escape season, that can only be good news for Fulham:
Quite that chalkboard has Nicky Shorey and not Brian McBride scoring our opening at Reading is unclear.