When it comes to deciding on the signing of the season, Michel Vorm mustn’t be overlooked. Brought in as a virtual unknown from Utrecht in the summer as Brendan Rogers sought to supplement his squad for the rigours of Premier League football, the Dutchman has swiftly established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the top flight. He and the other outstanding custodian of the campaign, Newcastle’s Tim Krul, are locked in a battle to succeed Edwin van der Sar as Holland’s number one and Vorm did his chances of landing the jersey for Euro 2012 no harm with a splendid display against Fulham.
His gamemanship when Martin Jol’s side were awarded a late penalty was reminiscent of Fabien Barthez. Vorm, booked for delaying the kick by standing closer to the corner flag than his goal, out psyched Clint Dempsey, who saw a disappointing day go from bad to worse when his tame spot-kick followed an own goal that had given the home side a deserved lead. Substitute Danny Graham completed a miserable day for the Londoners, turning in Mark Gower’s injury-time corner to secure the Swans’ first win in four games.
Fulham, without Bobby Zamora after the England striker was dropped followed a rumoured row with Jol, seemingly needed to go behind to find a sense of adventure. They were inexplicably passive before the break and didn’t muster a shot before Dempsey deflected a harmless Scott Sinclair effort away from Mark Schwarzer and into the top corner. The hosts had the better of a forgettable first half with Luke Moore rattling the bar from 25 yards. Leroy Lita had earlier headed wide from 10 yards and Schwarzer smothered a speculative shot from Sinclair.
The Swansea goal – merited as it was – came just as Fulham were beginning to get a foothold in the contest. Jol had picked an adventurous side with the returning Simon Davies a surprise inclusion in central midfield in place of the injured Danny Murphy. Dempsey, no doubt spurred on by his unfortunate own goal, almost achieved immediate redemption. A defence-splitting pass released Bryan Ruiz, but the Costa Rican couldn’t beat the inspired Vorm when he was clean through on goal.
Swansea looked lively on the break as Fulham committed numbers forward. A surging run from Sinclair had Stephen Kelly backpeddling and, when the former Chelsea winger squared the ball, substitute Kenny Agustien sidefooted a precise effort against the base of the post from 25 yards with Schwarzer beaten. Fulham came roaring back themselves with John Arne Riise rattling the woodwork from a free-kick. Vorm saved from Andy Johnson and the impressive Kerim Frei before the teenager’s tricky dribble was brought to an end by Jazz Richards just inside the box. Referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the spot, but Vorm parried Dempsey’s poor penalty. Given that the American has form in failing from 12 yards it was a mystery why Johnson or Riise weren’t preferred from the spot.
Just to add insult to injury, Swansea scored a second in stoppage time. Graham outsmucled Hangeland and guided Gower’s low corner into the net from close range for his fifth goal of the season. Fulham, rudderless without Zamora, will wonder what they might have achieved had they managed more attacking intent from the first whistle. If Jol’s bright new dawn is to arrive minus the England striker, he’ll need to find far more firepower than this.
SWANSEA CITY (4-4-2): Vorm; Richards, Taylor, Williams, Caulker; Britton, Gower, Routledge (Dyer 89), Sinclair; Lita (Graham 76); L. Moore (Agustien 69). Subs (not used): Tremmel, Monk, Bessone, Dobie.
GOALS: Dempsey (o.g. 56), Graham (90).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Kelly, J.A. Riise, Hangeland, Senderos; Etuhu, Davies (Sa 79): Ruiz, Dembele (Frei 77), Dempsey; Johnson. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Hughes, Briggs, Gecov.
REFEREE: Jonathan Moss (Leeds).