Good win last night courtesy of a couple of wonderful goals and a deserved one too based off our dominance of attacking pressure. Defensively we still look ropey, the goal we conceded and number of opportunities Wisla had in dangerous situations are testimant to that, but going forward there is definately a flow about is not seen since the Tigana days probably. Our first, a wonderful one touch move, as was the second (albeit a rehearsed one but equally clever and well executed), sandwiching a quite brilliant volley, topped off with a powerful header following a good cross. A point puts us into the next round, and unless Twente fail to win against Wisla (which is pretty hard to imagine) then only a win in Holland will do to top the group whether we draw with or beat Odense, so it’s quite tempting to put out a much weakened side, although more risky. Anyway, onto the player ratings.
Schwarzer – 7, no complaints about this performance. Played it out really well in possession, kicking long and well when needed and passing/throwing on the deck with assurance, which is nice because one of his major (well, only) criticisms is his kicking is relatively poor. He also made a couple of good saves and, as usual, caught everything he needed to.
Baird – 6.5, again, his fizzing passes out of the back really stick out to me, several times he just stroked it forward from the back four right up to Zamora’s feet, along the ground, very impressive. I also like how he’ll join attacks as an auxillary midfielder or right back sometimes, although it leaves us exposed. Defensively, solid and wasn’t tested too much overall.
Hangeland – 6.5, much like Baird had a solid game although he dived in once or twice, including for their goal, when it wasn’t necessary, taking him totally out of the game. Graham Taylor for Channel 5 remarked last night about how good Hangeland’s first touch was, and it wasn’t anything I noticed before but after he said that I really started to appreciate just how fantastic Hangeland’s control is. The subtlety he uses just to take it away from forwards when being closed down to give him a few seconds to play it is actually really impressive.
Kelly – 7, another good showing from right back by Kelly, getting forward often and making one very good tackle in our box in a dangerous position. Really good squad member to have, and no longer do you see the Kelly detractors who gave him stick for really no apparent reason.
Riise – 6, I was suprised to see Riise player over Briggs, and again another unconvincing performance but did just enough not for it to be considered a bad one. Was caught hopelessly out of position at one point in the first half but made a few good driving runs forward.
Etuhu – 6, ok for this one I’m going to copy and paste something I wrote on FOF a little earlier:
He’s not a bad player by any means and his passing is derided so much to the extent that it’s now underrated, he gives the ball away relatively little and once in a while can open up play with a decent ball. Sidwell is more dynamic and that is probably needed (I mean, it’s not as if Murphy’s movement is bad either, just that he can’t find space like he used to). He is more specialised than Murphy, Sidwell and Gecov and so our options would suddenly be very limited in central midfield if he were to go.
People make it sound so easy, ‘Hodgson could see what we saw, so only made him pass 5 yards and etc etc’ but fact is it really isn’t or, and its a bit of a cliché, anyone could do it. For a player who played practically the whole of our 5 month push to our highest ever finish and similarly was a mainstay in our Europa League season he gets an awful lot of disrespect. I’m not saying he’s better than Sidwell but appreciate him at least.
Gave the ball away last night for the first goal very poorly, although I’ll also watch the goal again to see the return pass he got because I didnt pay attention to it at the time, and miscontrolled a ball from Murphy in the first half; other than that I can’t think of any poor times he gave the ball away last night. Similarly he didn’t open their defence up (although made a couple of bursts forward which takes defenders with him), but he kept possession with short passes and he recycles the ball quite well actually, and the Busquets comparison that Rich makes is certainly a good one.
Plus that huge tackle on Nunez.
Murphy – 7.5, I do love it when Murphy’s pumped up because when he does we are very hard to stop, and noticeably in the first half an hour he was a man possessed. Made several great passes, moved the ball around quickly and sharply, played one twos and burst forward, he was certainly pumped up and played like it. I’m not sure whether the cross for AJ’s volley was intentional but if it was, what a ball. Shame he had to come off with an injury and I hope he makes Spurs.
Dempsey – 7.5, overall Dempsey had a bright game, often joining Johnson and Zamora to make a very narrow forward three in attack. It was such a shame that his audacious Ruiz/Juventus-esque chip after beating 3 or 4 defenders hit the crossbar but deserves credit for the sheer audacity alone, not to mention the technique.
Duff – 7.5, his best performance of the season so far. His crossing hasn’t been the greatest this season but today he offered a threat both inside and outside the fullback, setting up Kasami’s chance with his right foot and Sidwell’s goal with his left, for example. The goal he scored was really quite sweet too, well struck first time effort. As always worked like a demon and had a little personal battle going on with Nunez, the two couldn’t stay away from each other for long.
Zamora – 7, definitely not up to the form he showed at the back end of last season. His touch isn’t totally there and the goalscoring instincts he demonstrated a couple of years ago again seem to be absent to some degree (but bare in mind the gorgeous finishes against Blackburn, City and QPR, it’s still there, he’s still got five to his name), but he still keeps racking up the assists. It was a lovely deft touch for his direct assist to AJ’s second and similarly for Duff’s goal, a great first time flick with the outside of his foot to set AJ free down the right.
Johnson – 9, and in Zamora’s place step up Fulham’s new hero, Andy Johnson. Like Zamora was before he smacked in 19 goals, AJ was largely written off and fans were drooling at the prospect of getting a million for him and 40k a week off our wage bill. Unlike with Zamora though (when he was in talks with Hull I said we shouldn’t sell him because he has the ability to score 20 goals in a season, hey presto, he scores 19 goals </bragging>) I was in agreement to some degree. But he’s proving everyone wrong. Not only a goal poacher but a goal scorer of some ability. With that injection of pace back in his game and confidence which one gets after entering double digits by the beginning of November, and while in some sense that figure’s been inflated by weaker teams, he’s scored 3 against QPR, 2 against Odense, 1 against Twente, and now 2 against Wisla who aren’t really the mickey mouse teams that some people make them out to be. Besides, someone has to score. His pull back for Duff’s goal was very good, and he managed to top that with a sublime volley, really was a true a strike as you’ll ever see, and capped it with a neat little chip over the goalie. Other than that he was full of running and in general played well. Like Murphy, I hope he’s not too injured.
Sidwell – 7, came on for the injured Murphy with half an hour to go. In a way I would have liked to have seen Gecov but Sidwell played well, the usual dynamism we’ve come to expect from him. A jack of all trades in every sense; this time he scored a goal via a really impressive leap and following up like a goal poacher to tap in the rebound.
Frei – 6, really really pleased to see him come off the bench and get a good twenty minutes. Saw little of the ball but worked back hard in defence, trying to impress and it worked, and the one chance he did have to run at the Wisla defence he took advantage of very well, driving toward the penalty area. On that run he was tripped about 5 yards from the edge of the box and could have stayed on his feet but went down thinking he lost the ball, without knowing that Duff was behind him, but he opened up play impressively with that and I can’t wait to see more of him. Hopefully he starts against Odense.
Kasami – N/A, was unlucky not to get his first Fulham goal as he drew a good save from the Wisla keeper. Didn’t do anything spectacular but was lively in the cameo he made.