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Fulham 1-0 Norwich Prem 34 1314 Daily Mail

last updated Monday 14th April 2014, 9:47 AM
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Matt Lawton at Daily Mail

Fulham (1) 1-0 (0) Norwich

It has taken a couple of months, but the change in philosophy that Felix Magath demanded when he was brought in to rescue Fulham appears to be paying off.

The German was exhausted at the end of this encounter. 'I'm kapput,' he declared. 'That was a very dramatic 90 minutes.'

But it was also the product of the cultural shift that he has overseen since arriving at Craven Cottage; a shift that sees the players eat breakfast and lunch together; that means those who are injured do not just come in for treatment in the morning but have their days divided into three sessions with the medical staff.

Magath sets an example by continuing to cycle to the club's Motspur Park training ground every day. No longer on Boris bikes but on three bicycles that were recently purchased by the club.

In his mind it is a further representation of his back-to-basics approach.

Hard, honest graft is Magath's mantra and this performance - capped by a marvellous first-half goal from Hugo Rodallega - was the product of the work that the 60-year-old former Bayern Munich coach has been doing since he arrived.

Fighting for their own survival under the guidance of a new manager desperate to make a good first impression, Norwich made it far from easy for Fulham. In spells, they were much the better side.

Magath acknowledged as much afterwards, admitting his side were a little 'lucky'.

But there was a collective will about Fulham, a defiance and a determination that proved the difference between these teams and might just be decisive in determining which one remains in the top flight and which goes down.

It was the sheer courage with which Fulham defended that was so memorable, Rodallega's clearance to deny Michael Turner in the 74th minute a perfect example of Fulham's work ethic, plus some wonderful saves from David Stockdale.

What a transformation the Colombian Rodallega has undergone. Not so long ago he broke down in tears in the dugout, shattered by defeat to Sheffield United in the FA Cup.

And what a transformation, too, for Mahamadou Diarra, the former Real Madrid midfielder somehow returning from a career-threatening injury to deliver two huge performances in the last two games.

'More people will believe we can stay in the league now,' said Magath, and so they should. 'It helps us to be confident.'

He would have had sympathy for Neil Adams, promoted from the Under 18s side to suddenly take charge at Norwich after the dismissal of Chris Hughton.

'I couldn't have asked for any more,' said Adams. 'We had some great chances and I thought we were the better side for long periods. But there are some very sad players in that dressing room.'

They are sad because Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal now stand between them and survival and, as Adams acknowledged, they are 'four of the best teams in Europe, never mind England'.

But perhaps there is a lesson here for Norwich. Perhaps they should have acted long before now. Perhaps they should have had the conviction Fulham displayed when they changed their manager for a second time this season and recruited Magath.

Former BBC Radio 1 DJ David Hamilton did his usual just before kick-off in his role as stadium announcer, declaring that it was 'show time' here at Craven Cottage. But, for once, it far from captured the magnitude of this match - not to mention the sense of anxiety.

In fairness to the Fulham players, they appeared less nervous than their supporters and Magath's decision to start with Rodallega immediately looked like a prudent move.

He wasted no time in imposing himself on the Norwich defence, threatening with a shot across the face of John Ruddy's goal after bursting clear.

Stockdale, nevertheless, had to be at his very best. It was a terrific save that denied Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and a similarly impressive stop to then deny Leroy Fer from the resulting corner. Stockdale was a little more fortuitous moments later. He appeared to be beaten by a Robert Snodgrass free-kick but was saved by the crossbar.

The sense of frustration for an animated Adams was compounded when Rodallega then struck five minutes before the break, producing a brilliant left-foot volley after Steve Sidwell had flicked on Lewis Holtby's free-kick.

Over in the technical area, Magath punched the air, even if he would have remained concerned by the opportunities Norwich were creating.

No sooner had the second half began than Van Wolfswinkel was through with only Stockdale to beat. Fortunately for Fulham, though, the Dutchman continues to fail in justifying his inflated price tag and after little more than an hour he was hooked.

While Rodallega might have scored a second had it not been for a clearance from Martin Olsson, Norwich continued to press. It seemed certain Snodgrass would score after Olsson had accelerated on to a ball from Bradley Johnson and squared it for a colleague. But a courageous Brede Hangeland launched himself across the six-yard box and Snodgrass sent his effort wide.

Fulham lived on their wits, with Fernando Amorebieta producing a marvellous block to send Gary Hooper's shot for a corner, with Rodallega then diverting that Turner header to safety.

Near the end, Ashkan Dejagah should have scored a second for Fulham, only to blast his effort over with only Ruddy to beat. Had it mattered, he might have been 'kapput', too

Fulham: Stockdale, Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Kasami (Dejagah 57), Sidwell, Diarra (Kvist Jorgensen 85), Richardson, Holtby (Parker 69), Rodallega.
Subs Not Used: Stekelenburg, Riise, Roberts, Bent.

Booked: Kasami (45,f).

Rodallega 40 (left footed shot from very close range to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Steve Sidwell with a headed pass following a set piece situation.).

Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Fer (Hoolahan 68), Howson (Murphy 79), Snodgrass, van Wolfswinkel (Hooper 60), Redmond.
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Garrido, Ryan Bennett, Tettey.

Booked: Fer, Whittaker, Snodgrass.

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).

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