Fulham lost the opening game of their Australian tour as Gold Coast United scored twice in six minutes at the end of an entertaining game at Skilled Park.
The Whites made the perfect start, playing some good football and went ahead through a curling long-range free-kick from captain Danny Murphy. The midfielder’s fine strike flew into the top left corner to give the Premier League side the lead. It was the first goal the hosts had conceded in eleven pre-season friendlies.
On his much-hyped return to his homeland, Mark Schwarzer had little to do in the Fulham goal. Roy Hodgson rung the changes for the second period and replaced the Australian international with his veteran Swiss deputy Pascal Zuberbuhler. The Whites did look set to cling onto a victory before the drama of the last ten minutes.
First Jason Culina, who suggested Murphy was talking s*** when he suggested that United would treat this as a Cup final and retorted that Fulham weren’t in the same class as Manchester United or Arsenal (he obviously didn’t see last season’s results) combined nicely with Kiwi substitute Shane Smeltz, who fashioned a chance which Brazilian Milson duly converted. Four minutes from time, Smeltz turned poacher firing home from a corner to seal an unlikely victory.
Fulham will play two more matches in Australia, against Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory.
FULHAM: Schwarzer; Stoor, Kallio, Pantsil, Smalling; Andranik, Murphy, Gera, Seol Ki-Hyeon; Zamora, Nevland.
REFEREE: Chris Beath.
Fighting talk from the Gold Coast this morning. You’d expect nothing less from the coach of an Australian sporting side, would you?
Miron Bleiberg, manager of Gold Coast United, says his side will be aiming to take advantage of any ‘ring rustiness’ when Fulham open their Australian pre-season tour Skilled Park next Wednesday night.
We know this is going to be a very tough game, but we also know that perhaps this is a good time to play them as it’s so early in their pre-season program. Our players are in their second month of pre-season training but Fulham will only be in their second week. Naturally, we will be doing everything we can to take advantage of that.
I watched them on TV about ten times last season and they will of course know nothing about us. They have great players but the likes of Andrew Johnson, Bobby Zamora and Danny Murphy, etc, will be different players in a month or so when they are approaching full competition fitness.
That’s not to say that they won’t be fit and sharp against us; they will be I’m sure. It’s not as if players from the English Premier League sit around eating pies and drinking soft drinks for a month, so their base fitness will still be there.
Bleiberg also says he wants his players to take the game to Fulham in what could make for an entertaining contest.
We know what a good side Fulham are and we know the very high standard of the competition they play in, but we have good players who work hard and we will be giving it our very best shot. We will approach this game like we approach any other – with confidence. That’s the mindset we have established with our players from day one and we see no need to change that.
We have no intention of trying to close out the game and defend for our lives, that’s not how we play football and we will be putting on a brave performance against Fulham. We will take a lot from the match and it will act as brilliant preparation for the A-League season