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Fulham enough quality for Cardiff - D. Telegraph

last updated Monday 27th January 2003, 10:44 AM
Fulham (0) 3 Charlton (0) 0

Fulham's life would be a good deal easier if they played only cup football. Goals may be chronically hard to come by in the Premiership but, just as against Birmingham in the previous round, they made light of securing three of them here to see off a fellow top-flight team.

Fulham striker Luis Boa Morte
Luis Boa Morte Stories
Fulham striker Luis Boa Morte made Fulham's first goal with a surging run and an incisive pass to Steed Malbranque
Supporters of last year's semi-finalists may spend more nights dreaming of a home game at Craven Cottage than a day out at the Millennium Stadium, but Jean Tigana has enough quality in his squad to rise to most occasions.

In an unexpectedly one-sided second half, three Steed Malbranque goals - two of them penalties - proved more than enough to lever aside a Charlton team whose usual appetite for battle disappeared alarmingly. By the time Mark Fish was sent off after conceding the second penalty, capitulation was complete.

"They gave it their lot for 65 minutes, but once the second went in, it was all over," said Charlton manager Alan Curbishley. "It was a case of not taking our chances and some pretty poor defending."

Sven-Goran Eriksson was in attendance, possibly watching Scott Parker, and he will have been impressed by his steadying influence on a pitch rendered uneven by QPR's use of it on Saturday.

The clearest chance of an undistinguished first half belonged to Charlton, and had Parker's industry and improvisational skills at its heart. Surging towards the deadball line, he wrong-footed the defence by crossing early with the outside of his right foot to Luke Young. The defender had timed his late run to perfection but the ball bounced before he could head it and a consequent lack of power gave Maik Taylor the chance to make a superb, one-handed reflex save.

So far, so even, and given the customary diligence of the Charlton midfield it was surprising to see them opened up so easily in the build-up to Fulham's first goal.

Little danger seemed imminent from a Fulham throw-in, but Luis Boa Morte's angled incision - at top pace - created the space for Malbranque to draw Kiely and clinically find the top corner.

Three minutes later Jonatan Johansson, who scored with two overhead kicks in Charlton's third-round victory over Exeter, almost got another, but the ball landed on the roof of Taylor's net.

It was the visitors' last opportunity before Boa Morte's pace drew a challenge from Young which resulted in the penalty that ended their interest in the competition.

The challenge was right on the 18-yard line, but referee Paul Durkin was perfectly placed to judge it, and Malbranque sent Kiely the wrong way from the spot. "I'm pleased for him," Tigana said of his £4.5 million signing from Lyon. "He has had many chances this year but to have confidence at the highest level you have to score."

Bad became worse for Charlton when, with the minutes ebbing away, Fish made a mess of heading back to Kiely, allowing Facundo Sava to sneak goalside before hauling him over. It was arguable which was more inevitable: a red card for Fish or Malbranque's hat-trick, reached with a mighty drive high into the middle of goal.

Fulham: Taylor, Djetou (Knight 84), Melville, Goma, Harley, Boa Morte, Malbranque (Goldbaek 87), Legwinski, Davis, Marlet, Sava.
Subs Not Used: Herrera, Inamoto, Hammond.
Goals: Malbranque 59, 66 pen, 87 pen.

Charlton: Kiely, Young (Fortune 72), Rufus, Fish, Konchesky, Kishishev, Parker (Svensson 77), Jensen (Bart-Williams 72), Euell, Bartlett, Johansson.
Subs Not Used: Rachubka, Powell.
Sent Off: Fish (86).
Booked: Jensen, Young, Konchesky.

Att: 12,203

Ref: P Durkin (Dorset)
Source D. Telegraph by Nicholas Spencer

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