A game which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth thanks to Bobby’s injury but a deserved win nonetheless as we dominated an average Wolves team in the second half and had 2 clear cut penalties ruled out. I hope we don’t make a habit of waiting to the 90th minute to score though! Anyway, player ratings.
Schwarzer – 6, only made one save so didn’t have much impact on the game at all. Seemed to punch quite alot which I thought wasn’t always necessary, but to be fair to him his punches got good clearance on them and relieved pressure on the defence. Apart from that he wasn’t tested at all, his distrubution was ok and he kept concentrated which is all you can ask for when you’re a goalie in that situation. Decent return for him.
Kelly – 7, did really well defensively, infact I don’t think Wolves created anything down his side. In the first half he kept a lively Jarvis very quiet and in the second half, when Jarvis switched sides after the suprising substitution of the impressive Van Damme, nullified the threat from at first Fletcher then Jones. He was also a willing runner going forward and made several good runs far into the Wolves half which weren’t fully taken advantage of, and it was his cross that eventually led to our equaliser. His lack of left foot was noticable though, Kelly cut back inside almost every time he had the ball and only used it for a couple of poor crosses, although he did link passes up with the team well enough. Salcido. who didn’t play because of visa issues, is, like Kelly, predominately right footed but also has confidence and ability with his left so I don’t think this’ll be a problem when he plays against Blackburn. Other than that though I was impressed with him, assuring to know that he’s our reserve fullback. Briggs was injured with a thigh problem, but seeing as Kelly started ahead of him at Blackpool I don’t think that changed Hughes’ ideal starting line up
Pantsil – 4, had a shocker before being substituted at half time. The goal once again was his fault, he let the ball run across his body which meant Van Damme behind him had a free shot from a tight angle, almost a replica of the goal Pizarro scored for Werder Bremen. All it needed was a simple clearance and maybe the own goal was still playing on his mind, but it wasn’t made and that interrupted what was a really good start from us to the game, we didn’t get going again until after half time. Other than that he made some really poor clearances, put a regulation backpass behind for a corner, completely mishit a cross when in a promising position, left Jarvis completely unmarked at a Wolves free kick, gave the ball away at the edge of our area and was lucky not to be sent off after tripping up Doyle who was clean through (and offside, but the lino on that side had a shocker all game). Did have a nice left footed shot and made a couple of neat interceptions but that was about it as far as positives go. He’s carrying on his poor form after the international break which is worrying and Baird’s, performance and actually Kelly’s too will give Hughes a tough decision to make. People have speculated as to why he’s started the season poorly, some say it’s because the new attacking system exposes him more than under Roy but good players don’t turn bad overnight so I think he deserves to stay in for Blackburn and Stoke at least. If he performs badly up there then it’s time to think about his place in the team.
Hughes – 6, solid again. Doyle dominated him in the air similar to how Zamora dominated Evans when we played United but apart from that he was fairly comfortable, just the usual composed Hughes performance.
Hangeland – 7, impressed against a really good forward in Doyle. Won alot in the air and on the ground, and as per usual his distribution was good. He made some good interceptions with balls into the box and won a key header at the far post from the free kick I mentioned with Pantsil above, when there were two Wolves players attacking the ball. Played well.
Etuhu – 6, thought it was a bit of a so so game for him. I actually voted him as my player of the month and he did some good stuff but gave the ball away a fair bit. Defensively he did ok but we didn’t see him make his regular bursts forwards so much in the first half although that changed completely in the second when in the last 10 minutes he basically played as a striker. He made a couple of neat passes but as I said he also made some stupid ones and his first touch let him down a couple of times. It would be nice to see him be more aggressive with his play and use his physical prescence more, especially when we’re defending.
Murphy -7, completely controlled our midfield. I thought he had a good game yesterday but it took a re-watch on a recording for me to appreciate just how influential he was. He played one gorgeous ball to Davies to set him up but it wasn’t that which impressed me but how he kept the ball moving. All in all he made 72 passes from 77 attempts which is impressive in itself before you take into account the pressure Wolves applied on him when he had the ball. He gave the ball away a couple of times in dangerous positions but his passing was very good otherwise. Also helped out with a couple of good tackles and even gave Wolves a piece of their own medicine at the end of the game when he barged unceremoniously in to Henry’s back. He didn’t even try and hide it!
Davies – 6, got involved alot in the game but missed two sitters, the first when he was one on one with the keeper (he was fouled which was missed by the ref, again, but that shouldn’t have been a possibility, it should have been scored) and the second when Demebele played the ball into the box and Davies hit it wide. I think that wide left is a much better position for him than on the right because although he was allowed a pretty free role when on the right which is shown when he burst through the middle and got fouled through on goal which the refs missed, again, but on the left he has much more of the pitch to take advantage of his intelligent movement and passing. He’s a good crosser of the ball but he doesn’t have much pace to go around the outside of players which if you’re right footed and you’re playing on the right you need to do, and his left foot is quite poor so he can’t come into the middle of the pitch comfortably enough. He’s made a good start to the season though and doesn’t show any sign of the injuries of last season which is positive.
Dembele – 8, class act, his balance, technique, movement, composure, acceleration, intelligence, looks like a very, very good player. I was suprised when he started on the left and Dempsey started behind Zamora because I actually think they’re better in each others starting position. Dembele is a very accomplished passer of the ball and doesn’t seem the type of person to go wide and get crosses in from the byline, and infact when he did go to an attacking midfield role he wondered out to the right hand side several times which allowed him to cut in on his stronger left foot, so from that alone he should be in the middle rather than the left. The first goal was struck nicely but it took a big deflection and the free kick was again nicely taken but I still don’t have any idea what that Wolves wall was doing. It was in his creative build up play, running on the ball, which was at the heart of almost everything good we did. I also love how he’s not afraid to get stuck in. Unlike most fair players he’s fairly aggressive trying to win the ball and he works really hard. It’s only 4 games though so he could fall away completely but from what it looks like we have a very good player on our hands.
Dempsey – 5, had a poor game. Started as an attacking midfielder when as I’ve just said he’s better suited to left midfield. So many times he got tackled when on the ball in the middle of the pitch whereas on the left he’d get more space and like Davies on the left he’d have much more of the pitch to run with the ball into. Several times Dempsey tried to run and do too much but it petered out to nothing, if that didn’t happen it was because he couldn’t control the ball in the first place. I just don’t think he can play with his back to goal. Mind you with Bobby out till January it looks as if he’ll be playing upfront, at least until AJ gets back, and I think if he does that we as a team need to play differently and more through midfield rather than asking Dempsey to hold it up for us. What disappointed me most though was he didn’t fight for the ball enough. He’s good at drawing a foul (a very under rated skill) which he did a couple of times yesterday but a few times he just fell over. It makes me wonder if 2 years of solid football has taken it’s toll, perhaps he needs a rest. Definately didn’t suprise me when he went off though.
Zamora – 6, played okay before he was stretchered off. He held off challenges well from Craddock and Berra, won a couple of headers but picked up such an unfortunate injury from what was a pretty good tackle by Henry. All I can say is I hope he recovers soon but with the ligament damage found today it looks like he’ll be out for well longer than the original 4 month guess.
Gera – 6, passed the ball around well, played a lovely ball to Baird over the top and had a decent overhead kick at goal which went over (whilst having his shirt pulled by Mancienne who got a yellow in the first half for the same offence!). He had a decent game, coming on in difficult circumstances, and played on the right which is the same place he played against Arsenal, the game which I think turned around his Fulham career, although I didn’t think he had too much impact on the game. Gera got the assist on Dembele’s first too.
Baird – 6, came on at half time and was a definate improvement on Pantsil. Good in possession, positionally and in the air although we didn’t see him get forward as much as Kelly apart from a rare burst into the box where his first touch let him down in a promising crossing position. His lack of pace was exposed couple of times by Jarvis who isn’t a great footballer but has pace with some to spare, which included what eventually led to a free kick 2 yards from the area. From the resulting free kick Baird saved us with a clever goal line clearance off Doyle’s header, and it was also Baird’s quick thinking free kick which lead to our first goal. Solid performance from a player who has completely turned round his Fulham career, and it gives doubts over Pantsil’s place for next week.
Eddie Johnson – 6, sent on with 10 minutes to go and actually did ok! The loan spell at Aris seems to have sharpened him up a fair bit and he got involved with play a couple of times. Won the free kick which lead to the red card and the winner, and wasted around 45 seconds by keeping the ball in the corner which was nice to see. He kept his passing simple and his pace will always unsettle defences so a decent enough sub by Hughes for the struggling Dempsey. Who knows, maybe Zamora’s injury will be the making of Eddie Johnson.
Note: knew I forgot someone, completely missed out Gera, edited in now