Fulham limped to another disappointing draw this afternoon as Blackburn Rovers claimed their first Premier League point of the new season with a resolute defensive performance at Craven Cottage.
Martin Jol’s looked devoid of inspiration and width, especially in a second half when they played most of the football in front of an organised Blackburn defence, and struggled to break down Steve Kean’s side. Adding to Jol’s melancholic mood at the final whistle was a disappointing debut from new signing Bryan Ruiz, who was taken off at half-time after freezing badly in his first 45 minutes in a Fulham shirt. The Costa Rican looked badly off colour and Jol admitted afterwards that he may of erred in throwing his new signing straight in, especially as the wide open conclusion looked tailor-made for some creativity from the wings.
It might have been far worse for Fulham who trailed briefly to a fabulous long-range effort from Ruben Rochina. The impressive Junior Hoilet, whose afternoon ended early after a horrific collision with Mark Schwarzer late on, cut the ball back from the edge of the box and Spaniard shot powerfully into the top corner off the underside of the crossbar. Fortunately, Fulham swiftly equaliser. Danny Murphy played a clever pass between Scott Dann and Gael Givet and although the Frenchman anticipated the danger, Bobby Zamora punished his untimely stumble with a clever finish across Paul Robinson.
An otherwise quiet first half was only really enlivened by referee Howard Webb, who failed to award a penalty when Michel Salgado barged Bobby Zamora to the floor as he attempted to capitalise on a poor backpass from Dann. Fulham carried a far greater goal threat in the second half but ultimately failed to record a first league win of the season. Jol threw on Moussa Dembele for the second period, but Fulham struggled to make use of Dembele and Duff, who seemed to be under instructions not to cut inside from the right. His crossing with his weaker right foot was ineffectual, not one of his 14 crosses beat the first man and Zamora was denied the sort of service on which he thrives as a result.
It was left to John Arne Riise to provide the attacking impetus down the left flank but some fabulous last ditch defending from Givet, who looked far more comfortable when switched to centre back after half-time, to deny Zamora a shot on goal. Robinson produced two terrific saves from Fulham’s best openings of the second half. The first was a diving stop to foil Danny Murphy’s clever curler after the Fulham skipper had dummied Dempsey’s through pass to create a couple of yards of space on the left angle of the box, while Dempsey’s first-time shot was also pushed away.
Blackburn actually looked the more likely to score in the closing stages. David Goodwillie spurned a good opportunity after a dangerous run into the penalty area, screwing his shot wide, while Hoillet almost pounced on a mistake from the otherwise impressive Stephen Kelly to score a late winner before that clash of heads with Schwarzer. Much to work on before the visit of FC Twente on Thursday.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Hughes (Kelly 20), Riise (Johnson 81), Senderos, Hangeland; Sidwell, Murphy; Ruiz (Dembele 45), Dempsey, Duff; Zamora. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Gygera, Gecov, Kasami.
BOOKED: Murphy, Hangeland, Schwarzer.
GOAL: Zamora (38).
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-3-3): Robinson; Salgado, Givet, Samba (Olsson 45), Dann; Dunn (Petrovic 52), N’Zonzi, Hoillet, Rochina (Lowe 70); Goodwillie, Formica. Subs (not used): Bunn, Vukcevic, Roberts, Yakubu.
GOAL: Rochina (32).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (West Yorks).