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Leeds 0 Fulham 1 - Match Report

last updated Saturday 20th April 2002, 6:18 PM
     
  Fulham keeper Edwin van der Sar  
  Fulham keeper Edwin van der Sar
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Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque scored a priceless goal to all but ensure Fulham's Premiership status to give them a surprise 1-0 victory over Champions League outsiders Leeds.

Both teams had much to play for with Leeds still harbouring hopes of a Champions League spot and Fulham still one victory shy of Premiership safety.

Perhaps with so much at stake for both clubs the early period of the match was a cagey affair with little to get excited about for the Elland Road audience.

Leeds did have the ball in the net with the first real chance of the match with almost a quarter of the action played. Robbie Keane flicked a heeled pass to Ian Harte who fired a driver cross to the near post where Alan Smith was judged to have impeded Edwin van Der Sar before the ball broke to Robbie Fowler to tap into the empty net.

The home team appeared to have been aggrieved by that decision though, and stepped up the pace to put Fulham under pressure. And Keane should have opened the scoring four minutes later when Harte¿s cross picked him out at the back post but the young Ireland striker almost returned his volley to the supplier.

As the pace stepped up, so did the passion and Alan Smith clashed with Rufus Brevett, befoere the Fulham defender collided with Mills.

It was turning into a frustrating afternoon for Keane though and he missed another great chance after Fowler helped on Rio Ferdinand¿s clearance to put his strike parner through, but he shot wide of the post after drawing van Der Sar from his line.

The Fulham keeper then fumbled a Danny Mills cross before clawing the ball away from two onrushing white shirts, but redeemed himself with a save from a Fowler header seconds later.

Although Leeds were dominating, it was not all one way traffic. Louis Saha turned Ferdinand and left him trailing before playing a wall-pass with Malbranque, only to shoot straight at Nigel Martyn.

The visitors did find the net with their second chance of the afternoon, seven minutes after the break.

Saha attempted to thread a pass behind the Leeds defence and the ball broke to Malbranque whose shot zipped off the turf and flew into the far corner of the net under the diving Martyn.

Match Stats Leeds Fulham
Goal attempts 9 7
On Target 4 4
Hit woodwork 0 0
Fouls 12 16
Offsides 4 1
Corners 1 4
Yellows 2 3
Reds 0 0
source: www.sports.com

Van Der Sar dived bravely to foil Keane four minutes later after Fowler created an opening with a superb pass.

Fowler was then an inch short of turning a Smith volley into the net as his came slding in at the back post with the net gaping.

The feeling around Elland Road was that Leeds could play all night and not find the net. Fulham were looking dangerous on the counter-attack, but they were really lacking the cutting edge that has been a feature of so many of their matches this term.

The home fans were streaming out of the stadium long before the end, resigned to the fact that UEFA Cup football will be returning to Elland Road next season with Newcastle all but assured of that last Champions League spot.

In the end Jean Tigana's men done enough to get the points and the Premiership will be a better place for their survival. If they can find a natural striker they will not be fighting relegation next time around.

Man-Of-The-Match: Edwin van Der Sar (Fulham)
Made vital saves throughout the match, and even when he did fumble one cross atoned for the error immediately, and followed that up with a crucial stop moments later.

Leeds:
Martyn, Mills, Ferdinand, Matteo, Harte, Smith, Bakke, Batty, Bowyer, Fowler, Keane.
Subs Not Used: Robinson, Kelly, Wilcox, Johnson, Richardson.
Booked: Bowyer, Matteo.

Fulham:
Van der Sar, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Brevett, Davis (Ouaddou 87), Malbranque, Boa Morte (Goldbaek 9), Legwinski, Saha (Hayles 77), Marlet.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Knight.
Booked: Goma(F,3), Van der Sar(D, 45), Legwinski(F, 83).

Att: 39,111
Ref: R Styles (Waterlooville).

Source sky by Charlie McFaacrae

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