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Fulham v Wisla Krakow – Player Ratings

Good win last night courtesy of a couple of wonderful goals and a deserved one too based off our dominance of attacking pressure. Defensively we still look ropey, the goal we conceded and number of opportunities Wisla had in dangerous situations are testimant to that, but going forward there is definately a flow about is not seen since the Tigana days probably. Our first, a wonderful one touch move, as was the second (albeit a rehearsed one but equally clever and well executed), sandwiching a quite brilliant volley, topped off with a powerful header following a good cross. A point puts us into the next round, and unless Twente fail to win against Wisla (which is pretty hard to imagine) then only a win in Holland will do to top the group whether we draw with or beat Odense, so it’s quite tempting to put out a much weakened side, although more risky. Anyway, onto the player ratings.

Schwarzer – 7, no complaints about this performance. Played it out really well in possession, kicking long and well when needed and passing/throwing on the deck  with assurance, which is nice because one of his major (well, only) criticisms is his kicking is relatively poor. He also made a couple of good saves and, as usual, caught everything he needed to.

Baird – 6.5, again, his fizzing passes out of the back really stick out to me, several times he just stroked it forward from the back four right up to Zamora’s feet, along the ground, very impressive. I also like how he’ll join attacks as an auxillary midfielder or right back sometimes, although it leaves us exposed. Defensively, solid and wasn’t tested too much overall.

Hangeland – 6.5, much like Baird had a solid game although he dived in once or twice, including for their goal, when it wasn’t necessary, taking him totally out of the game. Graham Taylor for Channel 5 remarked last night about how good Hangeland’s first touch was, and it wasn’t anything I noticed before but after he said that I really started to appreciate just how fantastic Hangeland’s control is. The subtlety he uses just to take it away from forwards when being closed down to give him a few seconds to play it is actually really impressive.

Kelly – 7, another good showing from right back by Kelly, getting forward often and making one very good tackle in our box in a dangerous position. Really good squad member to have, and no longer do you see the Kelly detractors who gave him stick for really no apparent reason.

Riise – 6, I was suprised to see Riise player over Briggs, and again another unconvincing performance but did just enough not for it to be considered a bad one. Was caught hopelessly out of position at one point in the first half but made a few good driving runs forward.

Etuhu – 6, ok for this one I’m going to copy and paste something I wrote on FOF a little earlier:

He’s not a bad player by any means and his passing is derided so much to the extent that it’s now underrated, he gives the ball away relatively little and once in a while can open up play with a decent ball. Sidwell is more dynamic and that is probably needed (I mean, it’s not as if Murphy’s movement is bad either, just that he can’t find space like he used to). He is more specialised than Murphy, Sidwell and Gecov and so our options would suddenly be very limited in central midfield if he were to go.

People make it sound so easy, ‘Hodgson could see what we saw, so only made him pass 5 yards and etc etc’ but fact is it really isn’t or, and its a bit of a cliché, anyone could do it. For a player who played practically the whole of our 5 month push to our highest ever finish and similarly was a mainstay in our Europa League season he gets an awful lot of disrespect. I’m not saying he’s better than Sidwell but appreciate him at least.

Gave the ball away last night for the first goal very poorly, although I’ll also watch the goal again to see the return pass he got because I didnt pay attention to it at the time, and miscontrolled a ball from Murphy in the first half; other than that I can’t think of any poor times he gave the ball away last night. Similarly he didn’t open their defence up (although made a couple of bursts forward which takes defenders with him), but he kept possession with short passes and he recycles the ball quite well actually, and the Busquets comparison that Rich makes is certainly a good one.

Plus that huge tackle on Nunez.

Murphy – 7.5, I do love it when Murphy’s pumped up because when he does we are very hard to stop, and noticeably in the first half an hour he was a man possessed. Made several great passes, moved the ball around quickly and sharply, played one twos and burst forward, he was certainly pumped up and played like it. I’m not sure whether the cross for AJ’s volley was intentional but if it was, what a ball. Shame he had to come off with an injury and I hope he makes Spurs.

Dempsey – 7.5, overall Dempsey had a bright game, often joining Johnson and Zamora to make a very narrow forward three in attack. It was such a shame that his audacious Ruiz/Juventus-esque chip after beating 3 or 4 defenders hit the crossbar but deserves credit for the sheer audacity alone, not to mention the technique.

Duff – 7.5, his best performance of the season so far. His crossing hasn’t been the greatest this season but today he offered a threat both inside and outside the fullback, setting up Kasami’s chance with his right foot and Sidwell’s goal with his left, for example. The goal he scored was really quite sweet too, well struck first time effort. As always worked like a demon and had a little personal battle going on with Nunez, the two couldn’t stay away from each other for long.

Zamora – 7, definitely not up to the form he showed at the back end of last season. His touch isn’t totally there and the goalscoring instincts he demonstrated a couple of years ago again seem to be absent to some degree (but bare in mind the gorgeous finishes against Blackburn, City and QPR, it’s still there, he’s still got five to his name), but he still keeps racking up the assists. It was a lovely deft touch for his direct assist to AJ’s second and similarly for Duff’s goal, a great first time flick with the outside of his foot to set AJ free down the right.

Johnson – 9, and in Zamora’s place step up Fulham’s new hero, Andy Johnson. Like Zamora was before he smacked in 19 goals, AJ was largely written off and fans were drooling at the prospect of getting a million for him and 40k a week off our wage bill. Unlike with Zamora though (when he was in talks with Hull I said we shouldn’t sell him because he has the ability to score 20 goals in a season, hey presto, he scores 19 goals </bragging>) I was in agreement to some degree. But he’s proving everyone wrong. Not only a goal poacher but a goal scorer of some ability. With that injection of pace back in his game and confidence which one gets after entering double digits by the beginning of November, and while in some sense that figure’s been inflated by weaker teams, he’s scored 3 against QPR, 2 against Odense, 1 against Twente, and now 2 against Wisla who aren’t really the mickey mouse teams that some people make them out to be. Besides, someone has to score. His pull back for Duff’s goal was very good, and he managed to top that with a sublime volley, really was a true a strike as you’ll ever see, and capped it with a neat little chip over the goalie. Other than that he was full of running and in general played well. Like Murphy, I hope he’s not too injured.

~Subs~

Sidwell – 7, came on for the injured Murphy with half an hour to go. In a way I would have liked to have seen Gecov but Sidwell played well, the usual dynamism we’ve come to expect from him. A jack of all trades in every sense; this time he scored a goal via a really impressive leap and following up like a goal poacher to tap in the rebound.

Frei – 6, really really pleased to see him come off the bench and get a good twenty minutes. Saw little of the ball but worked back hard in defence, trying to impress and it worked, and the one chance he did have to run at the Wisla defence he took advantage of very well, driving toward the penalty area. On that run he was tripped about 5 yards from the edge of the box and could have stayed on his feet but went down thinking he lost the ball, without knowing that Duff was behind him, but he opened up play impressively with that and I can’t wait to see more of him. Hopefully he starts against Odense.

Kasami – N/A, was unlucky not to get his first Fulham goal as he drew a good save from the Wisla keeper. Didn’t do anything spectacular but was lively in the cameo he made.

~lork

AJ: Fulham’s European assasin

Andy Johnson just can’t stop scoring in Europe. The Fulham striker, still banging in the goals as his contract negotiations with the club continue, rates his first goal in the 4-1 romp past Wisla Krakow as one of the best strikes of his career.

The 30 year-old says Fulham were delighted to win so convincingly at Craven Cottage last night – with the victory avenging the earlier defeat in Krakow and getting Fulham’s qualifying bid back on track.

We were happy to get the three points to give us a great chance of qualifying. We’ve got two big games coming up against Odense and FC Twente, so if we can get another win, I’m sure we can progress. I’m pleased [with my own performance], but the main thing is that the team got the win we needed because we were quite disappointed to lose at their place the other week.

The first goal was a great ball from Danny Murphy and it was probably as clean a strike as I’ve hit in my career. It was a little bit behind me, but I hit it and it always looks nice when it hits the post and goes in. It’s probably up there in my top two goals, but the main thing is that we got the three points and we just need to kick on now.

The second was a well worked free-kick that we’d been practicing and I was delighted to get it over the goalkeeper.

Johnson is pleased that with two games left – against Odense and group leaders FC Twente – Fulham’s fate is squarely in their own hands.

I don’t think anyone likes going into games waiting on other results. You want the incentive of it being in your own hands. Now it’s up to us.

It’s a massive competition. We got to the Final a couple of years ago. Everyone in and around Fulham knows how important it is to the Club and it’s up to us to do well so I’m delighted to keep scoring and hopefully I can carry it on this Sunday.

It was a great game and a great atmosphere. The Fulham fans were top class like they always are, week-in, week-out and they played their part.

Johnson dismissed any worries that Fulham will be jaded after their European exploits when they face Tottenham, played a largely second string side in Russia last night, in Sunday’s London derby.

We have great medical staff around us and we have a great recovery squad and a great system at the Club. Tottenham have played as well although I’m sure they rested a few more than we did, but we’re professional footballers and we’ll all be ready for Sunday. We’re all fit lads so we can’t use mid-week games as an excuse.

Week-in week-out we play in the Premier League and ultimately we want to stay and do well in it so that’s always the main priority. The Europa League is a bonus, but we got to the Final two years ago so I don’t see why we can’t do it again.

It’s been a great week for the guys. We got our first away win which was important and the three points in the Premier League bumped us up the table and relieved a bit of pressure, especially after the unfortunate loss we had last week against Everton. But we bounced back well. We played well last Saturday. We were a little bit lucky but we got the three points and it’s taken us to a big game tonight and the boys stepped up again. And I’m sure they’ll step up again on Sunday.

Clint: Points were vital, revenge was a bonus

Clint Dempsey says re-establishing Fulham’s bid for a place in the last 32 of the Europa League was the primary motivation ahead of last night’s win over Wisla Krakow, but getting some revenge for their disappointing defeat in Poland was a nice bonus.

Martin Jol’s side stormed to a 4-1 win at Craven Cottage thanks to an early strike from Damien Duff, two terrific goals from Andy Johnson and a late Steve Sidwell effort. Dempsey was pleased with the many of Fulham’s victory:

It was to get the points. Revenge was a bonus, showing the team what kind of quality we do have. I thought we did that and the most important thing is that we got the points to help us get out the group stage.

It was a good game. We would have preferred not to have conceded and kept a clean sheet. It was good for some players to get some goals and some assists, which I think will help us going forward.

At home we always try and take the game to our opponents. I think we play a good style of football. We had good movement in the midfield and up front, while our outside backs were overlapping so we had chances and our players stepped up for us.

Bobby ‘pleased’ with the points

A beaming Bobby Zamora was pleased by both the manner of Fulham’s win over Wisla Krakow this evening and the continued success of his partnership with Andy Johnson up front.

The victory leaves Fulham needing just three points from their final two games in Group K to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and both strikers looked in fine fettle tonight.

We were pleased to win, obviously. And it was a good performance with a few goals, which is always nice.

There were some well worked goals, so we were pleased with that. And AJ’s on fire – he’s the man at the minute, and long may it continue for him and for us. After a year out injured he’s come back and he’s strong. He’s proving a point to a lot of people who doubted him.

Zamora revealed that the free-kick routine that led to the third goal wasn’t exactly well-rehearsed.

We tried it for the first time the other day. We’ve literally done it once in training! It worked brilliantly, so don’t go telling everyone, or you’ll expose it!

The England admitted that losing in Krakow was a real disappointment for the squad.

Yeah, we were a bit disappointed with that. So the lads were really up for it tonight. We knew we had to win this one and prove a point to them, so it was nice to win, but now we have to think about a tough game on Sunday [against Tottenham].

To be fair, in the past couple of seasons we’ve put in some good performances against them, so it would be nice to do the same and win, but it’s going to be tough. They’re a great side with some top players, so it won’t be easy.

But we’re at home, which is massive. We’ve got a great record here, so hopefully we’ll put in a good performance again and get a good result.