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Malbranque magic downs Mallorca

A fine volley from Steed Malbranque saw Fulham come from behind to beat Real Mallorca in their final pre-season friendly at Loftus Road this afternoon.

Chris Coleman handed home debuts to Moritz Volz and Jerome Bonnissel but his new-look defence got off to the worst possible start as Samuel Eto’o fired the Copa del Ray winners ahead after twelve minutes. Mallorca ruthlessly exploited some sloppy Fulham defending from a throw in and the Cameroon international, linked with a big-money move to Chelsea this summer, poked home a precise cross from Toni Gonzalez.

Fulham had dominated proceedings before going a goal down, with Barry Hayles firing wide early on after a surging Luis Boa Morte run down the left flank, and there were positive signs down the right flank with Volz and Steed Malbranque combining encouragingly. It took until after the half hour mark for Coleman’s side to make their patient passing pay when Volz’s cross was headed home by Boa Morte after the German full-back had carved out a similar opportunity for Hayles.

Coleman kept faith with what looks likely to be his starting eleven for next week’s Premier League opener against Middlesbrough after half time and Fulham’s fluency continued into the second period. They might have taken the lead three minutes after the interval when Bonnnisel pinched possession inside the Mallorca area and, despite having a clear sight of goal, played in Lee Clark only for the midfielder to fire wide of the target.

Mallorca were only threatening from long-range with Edwin van der Sar able to deal comfortably with a succession of speculative shots, but this final dress rehearsal appeared to be drifting towards a draw in sweltering sunshine before a moment of magic from Malbranque finished off the move of the match. The diminutive French midfielder began the move himself, popping a pass to Hayles just outside the box, and after the burly centre forward fed Clark, Malbranque darted towards the danger zone himself. Clark released him beyond the Mallorca back line with a beautifully chipped through ball, which Malbranque volleyed majestically past Miki.

Fulham might have grabbed a third in the dying embers of the contest but substitute Facundo Sava steered Malbranque’s measured free-kick wide of goal with his head.

FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bonnissel, Goma, Djetou; Legwinski, Inamoto (Buari 73), Clark; Malbranque, Boa Morte (Marlet 62), Hayles (Sava 75). Subs (not used): Crossley, Knight.

GOALS: Boa Morte (31), Malbranque (65).

REAL MALLORCA (4-4-1-1): Miki, Cortés, Poli, Niño, Nadal; Pereyra, Martin, Gonzalez, Pi; Bruggink; Eto’o.

GOAL: Eto’o (12).

REFEREE: Paul Durkin (Dorset).

ATTENDANCE: 2,489.