Match Report - Fulham 3 C. Palace 1

last updated Monday 03rd January 2005, 9:05 PM

Fulham striker Andy Cole struck twice to finally give Fulham fans reason to cheer over the festive period - and eased the pressure on manager Chris Coleman's shoulders in the process.

Fulham striker Andy Cole struck twice
Fulham striker Andy Cole struck twice

Cole bagged a goal in each half to take his Barclays Premiership tally for the season to eight but could have had a hat-trick in the second half alone, while Canada international Tomasz Radzinski wrapped up proceedings with the third.

Palace - who would have overtaken Fulham in the table had they triumphed at Craven Cottage this afternoon - were second best for most of the contest with Andy Johnson's 34th-minute penalty keeping them in the match until the second half.

Coleman's side were reeling from consecutive Premiership defeats by Charlton, Arsenal and Birmingham and they desperately needed a full return against Palace to put some space between themselves and relegation battle.

They managed this in fine style, entertaining throughout with some imaginative play and were clearly lifted by the return of Luis Boa Morte who had missed the last month through injury.

He spearheaded Fulham's challenge while Radzinski also made a full contribution with several piercing runs down the right flank - it was his guile which set up Cole's opener.

The initial action focussed on their own goal, however, with Tom Soares picking up a perfect long ball and running into space but he flashed his shot wide of the left post.

Fulham proved less wasteful though as they raced into a fourth minute lead when Radzinski cut inside to the edge of the area before feeding Cole whose weak shot still proved too much for keeper Gabor Kiraly.

It was a terrible defensive lapse from Palace who left the lurking Cole - Fulham's top scorer - unmarked and moments later they nearly fell two behind only for Boa Morte's square ball to pass out of danger.

Fulham star Luis Boa Morte dazzles Palace
Fulham star Luis Boa Morte dazzles Palace

Soares was enduring a miserable opening spell because he headed wide from point blank range from Wayne Routledge's cross with the equaliser beckoning.

Fulham's efforts in attack met with little success after the Boa Morte chance but by the 28th minute they pieced together two fine moves with Steed Malbranque scuffing a good chance wide and Boa Morte also going close.

Palace striker Johnson had a header from close range deflected over the crossbar as Iain Dowie's men enjoyed a rare foray into home territory and then the England prospect put his side ahead from the spot in the 34th minute.

He picked up a long ball on the edge of the area and pushed it past keeper Edwin van der Sar who, seeing he was beaten, lunged at the 23-year-old marksman and referee Dermot Gallagher signalled for a penalty which Johnson rifled home.

Stung into action, Fulham created a flurry of half-chances which met with little success before Radzinski found the arms of Kiraly with a shot which never threatened to trouble the keeper.

Match Stats Fulham Palace
Goals 3 1
Possession 50% 50%
Goal attempts 12 7
On Target 6 3
Corners 4 2
Penalty 0 1
Corners 4 2
Fouls 12 18
Yellows 1 3
Reds 0 0
source: opta index

Palace made a bright opening to the second half without putting the home goal under any serious threat, largely thanks to the efforts of midfielder Papa Bouba Diop who was tracking back to assist his defence.

A Mark Pembridge cross looked destined for Cole's head - the England striker was in a superb position in front of goal - but it was cut out by Danny Butterfield in the nick of time.

Fulham were back on top now and they deservedly retook the lead in the 60th minute thanks to the brilliance of Cole who worked his way between two defenders in the tightest of spaces before nudging the ball past Kiraly.

Boa Morte had a goal disallowed after Gallagher spotted a push from the Portuguese international on Fitz Hall and moments later the Fulham forward set up a magnificent opportunity for Cole which was dispatched over the bar.

But Radzinski put the result beyond doubt in the 73rd minute when he dabbed home a pass from from Malbranque who surged into the area, ghosting between two defenders in the process.

A scuffle broke out in the centre circle in injury time when Cole reacted angrily to Soares' sloppy tackle but the situation was quickly diffused and Fulham fans were able to celebrate a deserved victory.

Fulham Van der Sar, Volz (Rosenior 76), Knight, Rehman, Bocanegra, Malbranque (Clark 82), Pembridge, Diop, Boa Morte (John 89), Radzinski, Cole.

Subs Not Used: Crossley, McBride.

Booked: Knight(90,ub).

Goals: Cole 4, 60, Radzinski 73.

Crystal Palace Kiraly, Butterfield, Popovic, Hall, Granville, Routledge, Riihilahti (Torghelle 65), Soares, Lakis (Andrews 79), Johnson, Hughes (Leigertwood 64).

Subs Not Used: Speroni, Boyce.

Booked: Soares, Butterfield, Popovic.

Goals: Johnson 35 pen.

Att: 18,680

Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

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