Fulham’s fine pre-season continued with a fabulous four goal win over Nice on the Côte d’Azur this evening. The Whites’ dominant display, which included a fifth summer strike in as many friendlies for the potent Mladen Petric, augurs well for when Martin Jol’s side begin their Premier League campaign against Norwich City in a fortnight’s time.
Jol selected a strong side and their fluidity of movement and ease on the ball troubled the Ligue 1 side who seemed sluggish by comparison. The trip to the Stade du Ray was considered a stern test, with Nice due to begin their domestic season next weekend, but Fulham made the running from the outset with speedy Swede Alex Kaciniklic posing problems out wide and Bryan Ruiz looking dangerous in the hole. The pair combined with just a minute on the clock but the Costa Rican’s instinctive shot flew over the crossbar. The hosts replied with a speculative shot from Guie Guie but another astonishing finish from Petric handed Fulham the lead their early adventure merited.
Mahamadou Diarra, back in France after his four succerssful years with Lyon, started a flowing midfield move that offered Kacaniklic space to gallop into. The Swede sent over a dangerous cross but Petric’s finish – an acrobatic overheaded effort – was sensational. Following hot on the heels of a fine curler at Wycombe last week, it offered another indication that the Croatian could be an inspired signing, although he probably wouldn’t have been allowed as much and space and time in the physical confines of the Premier League.
Nice did up the ante after falling behind. Promising teenager Thimothée Kolodziejczak extended Schwarzer for the first time in the evening and skipper Didier Digard should have levelled proceedings rather than sending a header wide. The former Middlesbrough man looked as though he had nodded home an equaliser, but his flicked header was cleared off the line by Sasha Riether.
Fulham coped well enough with Nice’s spell of pressure although Schwarzer was almost embarassed by a long-ranger from Argentinian defender Fabián Monzón, but the Whites scored a crucial second just before the break. It came courtesy of Kacaniklic, who had always looked likely to exploit a square Nice back line with his pace, and the former Liverpool winger kept his composure brilliantly to double Fulham’s lead after sprinting onto a through ball from Petric.
Jol made his first changes midway through the second half, giving Kerim Frei just over half an hour to run at the French backline and offering Stephen Kelly some more match practice after his extended break following Euro 2012. The visitors were in total command and their superiority was reflected in the scoreline when Diarra lashed home a square pass from Petric twenty minutes after the interval. Mesca added a fourth a matter of moments after he replaced Damien Duff after a fine Frei through ball had disected the Nice defence to leave Claude Puel with plenty to ponder ahead of their opening league game against AC Ajaccio next Saturday night.
OGC NICE: Delle; Palun, Pejcinovic, Kolodziejczak; Coulibaly, Traore; Bautheac, Abriel, Monzon; Guie Guie.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether (Kelly 59), J.A. Riise, Hughes, Hangeland; Diarra (Baird 70), Dembele (Sidwell 70); Duff (Mesca 77), Kacaniklic (Frei 59), Ruiz (Davies 70); Petric. Subs (not used): Stockdale, Grygera, Briggs, Pritchard, Trotta.
GOALS: Petric (18), Kacaniklic (45), Diarra (64), Mesca (79).