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Cardiff City 3-1 Fulham Prem 29 1314 Daily Mail

last updated Monday 10th March 2014, 7:06 PM
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Mark Ryan at Daily Mail

Cardiff City (1) 3 Fulham (0) 1

It will take more than a vital win to make Vincent Tan popular in these parts. The Cardiff owner was booed loudly as he tried to celebrate his club's victory on the touchline.

Fulham supporters also found their targets after a display which nudges the club closer to the seemingly inevitable drop to the Championship. Two goals from captain Steven Caulker ended a 445-minute drought for the club and gave manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hope of survival.

But Fulham manager Felix Magath and his players seemed oblivious to the importance of the occasion - until they trudged towards their own fans after the final whistle and were sent home with angry disdain ringing in their ears.

Magath's leadership on this awayday had been a shambles. He bellowed at defender Sascha Riether after the right-back went missing before Caulker's second goal, a simple header from Jordan Mutch's corner.

'I told him he should play on his side - he moved to the left but he is a right-sided player,' explained Magath.

A few moments later, a shaken Riether turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Fraizer Campbell, after Craig Noone's cross caused chaos.

Fulham had worked their way back into the match when John Heitinga flicked on a Giorgos Karagounis corner and Lewis Holtby provided the finishing touch. That cancelled out Caulker's first strike, a tap-in created by a Fabio's far-post cross and Noone's half-volley back into the centre.

But Cardiff kept their heads and deserved their victory, giving Solskjaer such a boost that he celebrated as though his team had already avoided relegation. Tan's mistake was to think he could lead the general rejoicing. That misjudgment almost killed the moment completely. 'He didn't try to celebrate - he did celebrate,' insisted Solskjaer of his boss, as though the reaction was immaterial. 'We're all here together, he wants us to succeed. He congratulated me.'

A pantomime villain like Tan probably thinks three points were worth the abuse. He certainly would not trade places with his opposite number, Shahid Khan, who should now begin to plan for the Championship.

It will require a minor miracle to save sad Fulham and their fans began to acknowledge the near-certainty of relegation. 'You're going down with the Fulham,' Londoners warned their hosts. It may yet be true.

Kostas Mitroglou, the £12million flop, could at least point to a lack of match fitness as an excuse for his ineptitude, although Magath seemed to ask questions of his character. 'He isn't used to a relegation fight, he is used to winning,' said the German. As for the fans' reaction, he added: 'Sure I understand, we were full of hope for this game, it's frustrating and I'm disappointed with the players also.'

It was 10 minutes before the first sniff of goal, Ashkan Dejagah firing his effort into the side netting from a tight angle after a quick free-kick.

Solskjaer, never on the losing side against Fulham as a player, sent his Cardiff side out in a 4-3-3 formation with Campbell on the left flank, and the former Manchester United forward showed clever feet before bending a shot towards the far corner that Maarten Stekelenburg pushed away.

Noone was proving a constant menace to John-Arne Riise and the winger was next to threaten with a mazy run which ended with a low left-footed drive that flew just wide of the post.

Both sides were struggling to string passing moves together and when Cardiff did manage to carve out a chance through a deep cross from Mutch, Kenwyne Jones could only nod his delivery at Stekelenburg.

The Dutchman denied Jones again with a smart stop in the 44th minute when the target-man peeled off to the back post to thump Mutch's low delivery towards goal.

The Bluebirds' 445 minute wait for a Premier League goal came to an end on the stroke of half-time when Noone's low delivery from the left deflected kindly into the path of Caulker, who became their second top goalscorer of a forgettable campaign in front of goal.

Having netted just their third first-half goal in their last 17, the home side started the second half on the front foot with Mutch firing wide.

David Marshall had been a virtual spectator in the first half but he had to be alert to push Holtby's half-volley away from danger.

After a mediocre first half this game had sprung into life, with Jones missing a gilt-edged chance to open up a two-goal cushion when he headed wide when well placed.

Fulham had begun to edge their way back into the match and they were level in the 59th minute when the recalled Holtby was left unmarked in almost the exact spot where Caulker netted after Heitinga flicked Karagounis' corner into his path.

But it was Fulham's failure to defend set-pieces which would see Caulker head Cardiff back in front just eight minutes later.

Noone swung in a left-footed corner and Campbell and Caulker were given the freedom of the box, with the latter rising unchallenged to nod the ball under Stekelenburg.

And the relief inside the Cardiff City Stadium was tangible when the victory was sealed in the 71st minute. Mutch met Noone's dangerous cross with a header which Stekelenburg pushed into the path of Riether, and the defender could only look on as the ball trickled over the line.

Fulham did briefly threaten to set up a grandstand finish, Marshall tipping Mitroglou's effort over the bar before Steve Sidwell's smart header was ruled out for offside.

Cardiff: Marshall 6.5, Fabio 5, Caulker 7, Turner 6 (Theophile-Catherine 90), John 6.5, Medel 6 (Eikrem 81), Noone 6.5, Kim 5.5, Mutch 5.5, Campbell 6.5 (Daehli 72, 6), Jones 4.
Subs not used: , Cala, Lewis, Zaha, Bellamy.

Goals: Caulker 45, 67, Reither (og) 71.

Booked: Kim.

Fulham: Stekelenburg 5, Riether 5.5, Heitinga 6, Hangeland 5.5, Richardson 6.5, Dejagah 6 (Karagounis 50, 6), Sidwell 6, Holtby 6.5, Riise 5 (Kacaniklic 45, 6), Mitroglou 4, Woodrow 4.5 (Bent 76).
Subs not used: Kvist Jorgensen, Stockdale, Zverotic, Burn.

Goals: Holtby 59.

Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Attendance: 26,796.

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