John Arne Riise hailed Fulham’s battling qualities after the Whites had to grind out a gritty victory against Norwich yesterday afternoon.
Martin Jol’s side looked set for a routine home win after Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff put Fulham 2-0 up early on but Aaron Wilbraham’s second-half riposte made for a nerve-jangling conclusion. Riise admitted that the manner in which they gained the three points was far from pretty, but believes that the end of Fulham’s three-game losing streak will lift the mood in the dressing room.
I think we played well in the first half and should have scored a few more goals to maybe kill the game off. We knew they were going to keep pushing us in the second half and we tried to be compact and take our chances.
But we didn’t play well in the second half, we let them come back into the game and when they scored we just defended with everything we had. They could have nicked the draw but we are very happy because after three defeats in a row we need that win.
The Norwegian full-back is baffled by Fulham’s propensity to let their opponents back into games by conceding late goals – something that has dogged Jol’s first season in charge. The change in atmosphere was evident almost as soon as Wilbraham’s strike hit the net, after taking a sizeable deflection off Aaron Hughes, and the former Liverpool left back was delighted Fulham managed to cling on to their slender advantage.
I don’t know what it is, it just seems to happen to us. We know we normally play well at home and kill the games off, but if we don’t do that they get a goal, they gain momentum and put pressure on us. Norwich scored and they got the momentum and we just couldn’t keep the ball. That was the problem in the second half.
Riise was very impressed with Fulham’s débutante Alex Kacaniklic. The Swedish winger, offered an early chance to impress after Pavel Pogrebnyak was forced off before half time through injury, belied his tender age and limited professional experience – which spans only twelve games from his recent loan spell at Watford – with a confident display can could have been capped by an opportunistic strike shortly after half-time when John Ruddy turned a clever chip onto the crossbar.
He is one of the youngsters coming up. He took his chance and did well. He works hard, you could see he has skills and he is not scared of taking defenders on. I told him: ‘If you get a one against one, I’ll just stay back’, even though I don’t want to but it gives him space to do what he wants.