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Fulham 2-1 Newcastle Premiership Matchday 16 1213 The Guardian

last updated Tuesday 11th December 2012, 9:00 PM


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David Hytner at The Guardian


Fulham (1) 2 Newcastle (0) 1


This was a game that Fulham might have won several times over.

They will settle, though, for doing so after Newcastle United had staged an improbable fightback.

There was relief at the full-time whistle for Martin Jol, whose team have registered a first win in eight, but for Newcastle and Alan Pardew the trip back to the north-east was a time for soul-searching.

Fulham led through Steve Sidwell and they had the chances to have built an unassailable lead.

Tim Krul distinguished himself in the Newcastle goal.

But Newcastle dragged themselves off the canvas and the returning Hatem Ben Arfa contrived the equaliser from distance.

Fulham, though, put them back on their haunches when Hugo Rodallega punished dismal Newcastle defending to head home.

On another night, Newcastle might have nicked a draw - Fabricio Coloccini curled a wonderful shot against the post - but they find themselves in an awkward moment.

Four points above the relegation cut-off, they face both Manchester clubs and Arsenal before the end of the month.

Newcastle had been boosted by the home win over Wigan Athletic the previous Monday but were desperately seeking consistency to ensure that Pardew did not begin to feel the heat.

The demands of Europa League football have taken a physical toll on his squad while the manager has given the impression that he is not quite sure how best to harness the talents of the strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé.

He started with Cissé on the right flank and Ba as the single spearhead, although he changed after Sidwell's goal to a front two.

Dimitar Berbatov wore tights.

Any self-respecting semi-naked Geordie would have confirmed that it was not that cold but Berbatov does what he wants.

He played as though knocking about with mates on an artificial pitch after work and, at the outset, it felt as if it might be one of those pedestrian evenings.

Yet the match ignited when Rodallega controlled Damien Duff's cross with his chest on 18 minutes and shot wastefully.

The opportunity had opened up when Mike Williamson stepped out, made a hash of the attempted offside trap and, moments later, the Newcastle defender suffered a cruel blow.

Coloccini failed to tackle Duff when Newcastle's captain was the favourite to win the ball and, from the winger's cutback, Sidwell's shot deflected decisively off Williamson to beat Krul.

Fulham might have been out of sight by the half-hour.

Berbatov strolled clean through after Cheik Tioté had played Coloccini into trouble only for Krul to stand tall and block impressively, and a combination of the goalkeeper and Danny Simpson denied Berbatov again after Sascha Riether's cross.

Fulham could also point to Alex Kacaniklic's first-minute effort when he was knocked from his stride by Simpson.

And yet Newcastle rallied and Riether was Fulham's saviour with two goalline clearances before the interval.

The first came from the unmarked Coloccini's majestic header and the second from Ba's low drive.

Newcastle sensed a reprieve and they restored parity in freakish circumstances.

Ben Arfa shimmied one way and then the other and, from the right-hand edge of the penalty area, he tried his luck.

The shot flicked off John Arne Riise, bamboozled Mark Schwarzer and looped into the net.

For Schwarzer, after his error against Tottenham Hotspur in Fulham's last game when he was beaten by Sandro's speculative long-ranger, this was another bad moment.

Fulham stood to pay for their profligacy.

But they dug deep.

Berbatov released Sidwell, who was thwarted by another fine Krul block before Newcastle lapsed in shocking fashion.

Duff, the former Newcastle winger, who was jeered throughout by the travelling fans, stood up a free-kick and Coloccini watched Rodallega rise unmarked to head home.

Newcastle were not finished and Coloccini - loose in his defensive third, magnificent at the other end - curled a shot magnificently against the far post from distance.

But they came up short.






















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