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Cardiff City 3-1 Fulham Prem 29 1314 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 10th March 2014, 7:17 PM
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Graham Clutton at Daily Telegraph

Cardiff City (1) 3 Fulham (0) 1

This was a crucial win which suggested Cardiff City may yet escape relegation at the end of a farcical season. And yet, as if to highlight the bizarre circumstances in which the club's fledgling manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is having to plot his team's survival bid, their second win in nine games under the Norwegian was greeted by the sound of the home supporters turning on their owner.

When Vincent Tan moved from his seat in the directors' box to join Solskjaer on the touchline at the conclusion of this error-strewn contest between the bottom two, he was roundly booed. It was an unsavoury end to an otherwise uplifting afternoon, when two goals from defender Steven Caulker and an own goal from Sascha Riether were enough to secure victory.

For Fulham, relegation now seems inevitable. A sixth Premier League defeat in their last eight games led to a discontent amongst the travelling fans. Felix Magath's side are now four points from safety and Newcastle, Manchester City and Everton are yet to come before the end of the month.

Two of Felix Magath's selections raised eyebrows, with Kostas Mitroglou thrown into the starting line-up for the first time since arriving from Greece for a club-record fee to partner untried teenager Cauley Woodrow on his Fulham debut. But the German rejected suggestions that handing a 19-year-old whose last action came during a loan spell at Southend in January, was a risk.

"I see no gamble in it because he is a very talented player and I was satisfied with him. He did a lot of work for the team," the German said. "If you come back into the game and get a goal, you are always eager to get more. Conceding a second goal was where it went wrong for us."

To their credit, Fulham looked the more likely in the opening quarter and had Ashkan Dejagah have shown greater accuracy at the far post, the visitors would have found themselves in front.

As it was, Cardiff picked themselves up and showed a desire which many felt had disappeared in the wake of former manager Malky Mackay's untimely Christmas departure.

They came close through Kenwyne Jones and Craig Noone before Caulker, in first half stoppage time, arrived in the nick of time to convert Noone's far post cross and score his side's first goal in 445 minutes.

Fulham threw caution to the wind, with Magath introducing Alex Kacaniklic at half time and Giorgos Karagounis shortly after. The latter fluffed his lines from one or two corners, but when he eventually picked out Johnny Heitinga at the near post, he diverted the ball into the path of Lweis Holtby, who made no mistake from four yards.

Sensing an opportunity to strike again, Fulham found themselves on the front foot. However, just when an away win appeared the most likely outcome, Caulker rose to head home a Jordon Mutch cross, with 24 minutes remaining.

Five minutes later, it was game over. Maarten Stekelenburg kept out a Mutch header, but failed to recover in time to prevent Riether from diverting the rebound in to an empty net.

"Today was a big result for us," said Solskjaer, who said Caulker deserved to be part of the England squad at the World Cup. "As far as Steven [Caulker] is concerned, if he plays like this and chips in with the odd goal, he has to be in with a shout. He is a leader and a very talented player."

More than anything, Solskjaer needs the club to stand as one in the remaining weeks. For Fulham, well, it might just be beyond them.

Cardiff: Marshall 6; Fabio 6, Caulker 7, Turner 6 (Theophile-Catherine 88,5), John 6; Medel 6 (Eikrem 80,5); Noone 6, Mutch 5, Kim 6; Jones 5, Campbell 6 (Daehli 71, 6).
Subs Torres Ruiz, Lewis, Bellamy, Zaha.

Booked Kim

Fulham: Stekelenburg 6; Riether 5, Heitinga 5, Hangeland 5, Richardson 6; Dejagah 5 (Karagounis 52, 6), Sidwell 6, Holtby 6, Riise 5 (Kacaniklic 45, 6); Mitroglou 5, Woodrow 5 (Bent 75, 5).
Subs Kvist, Stockdale, Zverotic, Burn

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire)

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