Bryan Ruiz has enjoyed a quiet start to life at Fulham since his big money move from FC Twente at the end of August. A disappointing debut some low-key substitute appearances had a few questioning Martin Jol’s wisdom in shelling out more than £10m for the Costa Rican winger, but any doubts about his quality won’t linger for long. Ruiz made one and scored the other this afternoon as Fulham swept past beleaguered Bolton with ease in precisely the manner Jol would have wished for after their abrupt exit from the Europa League in midweek.
Ruiz has been a regular in Jol’s domestic starting line-up since he impressed against Arsenal back in November and he is beginning to thrive in the Premier League, having had a few months to adjust to the pace. Where there were once neat touches and clever passes, Ruiz is now having a direct impact on games. It was his terrific cross from the right that eased a few nerves just after the half hour mark as Fulham threatened to fail to capitalise on a bright start. Moussa Dembele darted into space in front of the Bolton defence before finding Ruiz and the Costa Rican’s floated centre was flicked home by Clint Dempsey, who soared majestically above Dedryck Boyata to head into the far corner.
Only 66 seconds later and the pair combined again to double Fulham’s lead. Dempsey slipped a pass between the Bolton centre backs and Ruiz raced away from Marcos Alonso and waited for Jussi Jaaskelainen to commit himself before coolly chipping the ball into the Putney End net. It was a sumptuous finish, perhaps reminiscent of George Best in his pomp, and accurately reflected Fulham’s adventure from the first whistle. Andy Johnson, leading the line in the absence of the injured Bobby Zamora, played a lovely one-two with Dempsey but shot wide when he should have done better and Brede Hangeland headed wide from a corner. Skipper Danny Murphy, who made a welcome return from an ankle injury which he appeared to have aggravated inside the first five minutes, had a volley deflected wide and Zat Knight managed to block a Johnson shot after the centre forward checked back inside instead of shooting first-time.
Bolton, who have now lost their last five games, threatened only sporadically. Nigel Reo-Coker got free in their very first attack but sent a shot tamely wide. When Owen Coyle’s side did manage to get in behind a resolute Fulham defence, they found the returning David Stockdale in commanding mood. Stockdale, recalled from his loan spell at Ipswich this week after the extent of Mark Schwarzer’s spinal injury was confirmed, easily fielded a Mark Davies shot from the edge of the box and did his England credentials no harm in front of Ray Clemence and Fabio Capello. Darren Pratley, who started his career at Fulham, skied over from a decent position – and was hauled off at half-time as Coyle introduced Chris Eagles and Greitar Steinsson.
Wanderers did enjoy more of the play in the second half but struggled for penetration. Eagles, who saw plenty of the ball on the wide, drove an effort wide and Fabrice Muamba shot straight at Stockdale, but Fulham looked dangerous on the counter. Dempsey found only the side netting as he stretched to turn Johnson’s low centre goalwards and the former Everton striker was stopped in his tracks by the offside flag – not for the first time – when clean through on goal. Gary Cahill produced saving tackles to thwart Ruiz and Dembele and Johnson, aiming to replicate Ruiz’s deft chip, failed to get enough elevation to outwit Jussi Jaaskelainen.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Baird, J.A. Riise, Hangeland, Senderos; Etuhu, Murphy; Ruiz, Dembele, Dempsey; Johnson. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Hughes, Kelly, Gecov, Duff, Frei, Sa.
GOALS: Dempsey (32), Ruiz (33).
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Boyata (Steinsson 45), Alonso, Cahill, Knight; Muamba, Reo-Coker, Pratley (Eagles 45), M. Davies; K. Davies (Ngog 56), Klasnic. Subs (not used): Bogdan, Robinson, M. Petrov, Tuncay.
BOOKED: Reo-Coker, Muamba, Steinsson.
REFEREE: Chris Foy (Lincolnshire).