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Celtic 3 Fulham 0 - Match Report

last updated Friday 20th July 2001, 9:45 PM
Fulham and Celtic
Fulham and Celtic line up for pre-match presentations
In front of a packed crowd at Celtic Park, Fulham were given a rapturous welcome from the Celtic faithful as manager Jean Tigana presented Bhoys manager Martin O’Neill with a commemorative trophy in recognition of Celtic’s triple-success last season.

Any notion that both teams would size each other up in the early stages quickly vanished. With just over a minute gone, a dangerous Alan Thompson free kick was met by Henrik Larsson, who almost gave his side an early lead.

The match then settled to its own pace with both teams sharing equal amounts of possession early on. Despite Fulham playing some tidy football, Celtic appeared to be more at ease as their numerous fans spurred them on

The first 15 minutes were played at a fast-and-furious pace. Despite experiencing an increasing share of the possession and winning the first two corners of the match, Celtic failed to make sufficient inroads into the Fulham defence to significantly trouble ‘keeper Maik Taylor. On 17 minutes Fulham had their first clear-cut chance of the match. A delightful diagonal pass from Lee Clark found Kevin Betsy in space as he broke clean through Celtic’s rear lines. The young striker, however, snatched at his shot and failed to capitalise on the situation

Larsson scores his first
Larsson scores his first goal
Jean Tigana maintained faith with his new central defensive partnership of Zat Knight and Alain Goma. Although with both players yet to forge an understanding, a Bobby Petta cross from the left-hand side was met at the far post by Larsson, who made no mistake in heading firmly home. Celtic had the lead. As has often been the case with Fulham, they are their most effective when they slow the game down and suddenly up the tempo. However, with Celtic showing a typically well-orchestrated defence, Fulham were finding it difficult to break down their opponents.

As the first-half progressed Celtic began to make more incisive attacks, pushing Fulham well back inside their own half. The result of this meant that the Whites were unable to create any significant passing angles upon regaining possession.

In recognition of this fact, Tigana decided to make the first substitution of the evening, replacing Kevin Betsy with Latvian international Andrejs Stolcers on the half-hour mark. The step up in class from the First Division to the Scottish Champions was most evident when Fulham were in possession. Defending solely in their half, Celtic were quickly able to close down any Fulham incursions into home territory.

Nonetheless, with Fulham doing the majority of the defensive work, Steve Finnan was given ample opportunity to shackle the dangerous Bobby Petta – which he impressively did with great assurance. As the first half came to a close, the feeling amongst the Fulham faithful inside the ground was that the Whites had yet to find their rhythm. Much as Fulham did to many a visiting team last season, Celtic were able to enjoy their time on the ball without being overly stretched in defence.

Celtic came on to the pitch first in the second-half and were made to wait, as Fulham were no doubt being re-briefed by the management. Fulham were noticeably making an effort to play further up the pitch, yet with Celtic’s season due to start in a matter of days, their extra sharpness was still making life for the Whites difficult.

Fulham and Celtic3
Fulham prepare for a Celtic attack
The 53rd minute saw the introduction of soon-to-be Fulham player, Abdeslam Ouaddou as he replaced young Zat Knight – who did himself proud on such a big stage. The Moroccan however, didn’t get off to the ideal start as his first significant input to the game was to be involved in Celtic’s second goal of the match. A mix-up between Ouaddou and Brevett lead to the ball falling to that man Larsson, who finished with ease from close range. With the addition of Ouaddou, who has had very little time to adjust to his new teammates, Fulham’s defence had a mountain to climb as Larsson and co. were running riot.

On 62 minutes, Tigana decided to introduce Barry Hayles in place of Luis Boa Morte. Having returned from his international duty with Jamaica, Hayles was looking to make an impact in his first appearance for the Whites this season. One of Fulham’s few chances in the second period fell to Andrejs Stolcers who was put through on 75 minutes via a pass from Sean Davis. As the Latvian international broke away, he was brought down on the edge of the Celtic penalty area.
John Collins
John Collins not enjoying his return to Celtic Park

As the second half developed, Celtic still appeared to keep their noses ahead as the Scottish side looked well in control of proceedings. Whilst Fulham introduced Paul Trollope in place of Lee Clark, the feeling was that no matter what Fulham threw at Celtic, the Bhoys still had more in reserve.

As the match entered its final stages, Celtic appeared content to settle on their 2-0 lead as their attacks became less severe. Whilst this was appearing to hold true as the match drew to a close, Fulham again presented Celtic with their third goal of the game, as Brevett was once more involved in another defensive catastrophe. This time, his partner in crime was Maik Taylor. Between the left-back and the goalkeeper, they both conspired to present young Sean Maloney with the final goal of the game.

The final whistle signaled a disappointing performance from Fulham, who never really got started. Although in terms of relative preparation, Celtic are well on the home straight whilst Fulham are still approaching the first bend.

Fulham: Maik Taylor, Steve Finnan, Zat Knight (Abdeslam Ouaddou 53), Alain Goma, Rufus Brevett, Kevin Betsy (Andrejs Stolcers 32), John Collins, Sean Davis, Lee Clark (Paul Trollope 74), Louis Saha, Luis Boa Morte (Barry Hayles 62)
Source fulham fc
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