Fulham deserved a point
Saj Chowdhury at BBCSport
 
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Middlesbrough 1-0 Fulham

Jeremie Aliadiere's first-half strike was enough to give Middlesbrough all three points at the expense of struggling Fulham.

The Frenchman raced on to Gary O'Neil's threaded pass and slotted the ball under goalkeeper Antti Niemi.

Aliadiere also had two long-range efforts saved by Niemi in a match that saw Boro's record signing Afonso Alves make his debut as a substitute.

Simon Davies had Fulham's best chance but Mark Schwarzer blocked his effort.

Although Alves came on to great cheers, the star of the show at the Riverside Stadium was Aliadiere.

The 24-year-old gave Fulham's defence little respite, with competition from 12m signing Alves perhaps giving the Frenchman food for thought.

His goal came early in the first half when he sprung a feeble Fulham offside trap, collected a lovely pass from O'Neil and fired through Niemi's legs from 12 yards.

The former Arsenal player bemused the Boro rearguard a couple more times in the opening 45 minutes - on both occasions drifting past half-hearted challenges and finishing with low shots that were well grasped by the Finnish keeper.

Boro's defence was fairly solid throughout the match - their backline led by German Robert Huth who was ably assisted by promising English defender David Wheater.

The only time home keeper Schwarzer was called into action during the first half was when he parried Davies' fierce shot out of harm's way.

However, the Australian would have had little chance to stop Danny Murphy's 25-yard blockbuster that whistled a yard past the right-hand upright.

For Boro, the second half was all about when, rather than if, Alves would come on.

And manager Gareth Southgate did not disappoint the home fans, bringing on the Brazilian for South Korea striker Lee Dong Gook in the last quarter.

His contributions were limited but the home support would have been pleased with his willingness.

And Boro had no need to press for a second because Fulham offered very little at the other end.

The Cottagers have now failed to win on Teesside since 1949 and, more importantly, they have only won two games away from home in their last 50 trips.

Roy Hodgson's side will be desperate to improve their record on the road if they are to avoid the drop.

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
"Jeremie has been outstanding for us all season and especially in the last two months or so.

"He has played unselfishly and now he is making the most of his chances and his confidence is growing.

"It's like having our youngsters who are in the same position as Jeremie in that they've not had that full season."

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson:
"It was a very gritty performance even though we went a goal down early. "Our passing was good especially in the second half.

"We had longs periods of domination and if we had got a point nobody could have said that we stole a point.

"It was difficult to break them down because they did not come out at us because they did not need to because they were a goal up."

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Young, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz, O'Neil, Rochemback, Arca, Downing, Aliadiere (Boateng 76), Lee (Alves 57). Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Mido, Grounds.

Booked: Huth.

Goals: Aliadiere 11.

Fulham: Niemi, Stalteri, Baird, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Andreasen, Kamara (Dempsey 46), Nevland (McBride 64).
Subs Not Used: Keller, Volz, Bocanegra.

Booked: Kamara, Nevland.

Att: 26,885

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).