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Fulham's nine survive - D.Telegraph

last updated Monday 18th November 2002, 11:00 AM
Birmingham City (0) 0 Fulham (0) 0

"The moment has arrived," bellowed the public address system as the teams entered the field at St Andrew's. An hour-and-three-quarters later, with Birmingham reaching a crescendo of emptiness against Fulham's nine men, we were still waiting.

The only notable moment of this barren match was despised and unsportsmanlike. In the 38th minute Rufus Brevett, Fulham's left-back, standing on the goal line, flung himself headlong to punch away a header by Birmingham central defender Darren Purse from a cross by Stan Lazaridis - an otherwise certain goal.
Fulham defender Rufus Brevett
Rufus Brevett

Brevett was correctly sent off, but from the penalty, Edwin van der Sar parried Stern John's kick and though Geoff Horsfield pounced on the loose ball, his snatched shot was wide.

Thus, in an otherwise faceless contest between two clubs hovering above the relegation zone, Fulham had illegally gained a critical advantage and, ultimately, a valuable point.

It is debatable whether Steve Bruce's inarticulate team, swamped by Chelsea last week, deserved victory, but they certainly deserved that goal. Fulham's luck is not in question. They did nothing to suggest they should not have suffered their fifth consecutive defeat, though the spirit of their nine men in refusing to yield at the finish was worthy of some respect.

In the 79th minute, following a contentious tackle by the too often controversial Robbie Savage, Fulham's striker Steve Marlet impetuously kicked out at Savage: red for Marlet, yellow for Savage, who finished the game nursing a groin injury which is almost certain to rule him out of Wales' Euro 2004 qualifier against Azerbaijan on Wednesday.

As the rain pelted down, both Birmingham and their anxious supporters were consumed with frustration as Fulham's truncated 1-4-3-0 formation, including Van der Sar, held them at bay.

Substitute Clinton Morrison had a winning goal disallowed for offside, but Birmingham had little idea other than to pump in crosses, mainly from Lazaridis.

Early in the second half Van der Sar, such a key figure for Fulham in last season's campaign, saved point-blank from another header by Purse. Sadly, mediocrity of ability and sportsmanship - not excluding the home crowd which boorishly booed injured Fulham players - continued to be the conspicuous feature of a forgettable game.

On this showing, Birmingham look the more likely to pull clear of trouble. Lazaridis, something like an old-fashioned winger, tends to hug the touchline, work his way past the full-back on the outside and swing the ball across. It needs someone besides Horsfield in the centre to capitalise on this.

Vaesen, Tebily (Hughes 75), Purse, Cunningham, Kenna, Devlin, Savage (Kirovski 82), Cisse, Lazaridis, John (Morrison 75), Horsfield.
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Powell.
Booked: Devlin, Savage.

Van der Sar, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Brevett, Goldbaek (Inamoto 85), Legwinski (Djetou 60), Clark, Malbranque, Marlet, Boa Morte (Knight 71).
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Sava.
Sent Off: Brevett (37), Marlet (79).
Booked: Finnan.

Ref: M Messias (N Yorkshire) Att: 26,164
Source D.Telegraph by David Miller
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