Aaron Hughes hailed his team-mates’ discipline and determination as being a big part of the solid defensive effort that secured three points on the opening day at Sunderland.
The Northern Ireland defender felt Fulham defended excellently from the front, which allowed them to profit fully from Pajtim Kasami’s second-half header.
It was a clean sheet, which we were able to win with – not just the defenders, the whole team, I think were pretty solid today. We worked very hard from the front back. Then we got a good set piece, Pato [Pajtim Kasami] got his head on the end of it to nick us a goal and we’ve come away with all three points, so we’re over the moon with it.
Although the visitors were on the back foot for much of the contest, Hughes revealed that Fulham were expecting to be put under pressure by the home side at the start of proceedings and believed that his side stood firm in the face of Sunderland’s bright start.
We were expecting a tough game up here. We’re away from home, so we can’t expect to dominate possession all the time and we knew they were going to be times in the game when they were going to have a lot of pressure and really come at us and we knew they were going to be times when we had to be patient and keep our shape and, as you say, keep ourselves in the game and make sure not to do anything silly and find ourselves one or two goals behind. We did that. It was a great ball in by Duff from the set piece, Pato got his head on the end of it, which was fantastic for him and, after that, again it was something to hold onto then and I thought we did really well holding on to it.
Hughes admitted that it was far from a flawless Fulham performance, but the character and application shown made it a particularly pleasing afternoon.
It certainly wasn’t vintage from us today. I certainly wouldn’t put it down as our best performance but, in terms of being resolute and strong and determined and showing a lot of character, I thought it was up there with any that I’ve played in. To come up here for the first game of the season and to come away with three points is a big achievement, so we’ve done really well today to do that and everyone goes away really happy.
It was a tough start for us, up here first and back up here in a couple of weeks – Newcastle – will be a tough game and Arsenal at home in between that, that’s not an easy start. To come away today with three points already on the board is a nice, little confidence booster for us. We look forward to next week and see if we can repeat that and get another one.
The 33 year-old resumed his familiar partnership with captain Brede Hangeland at the heart of the Fulham defence, in the absence of new signing Fernando Amorebieta, and Hughes says he is now almost able to read the Norwegian’s came having spent so much time alongside Hangeland.
When you play together and you play alongside each other, not even just in games but in training as well every day with someone for that long you get to know their game pretty well, so from a defender’s point of view today, to come away with a clean sheet – those are like goals for us, that’s what our game’s all about, trying to keep the ball out, so to have come away today with a clean sheet everyone’s really happy.