0 users online

Fulham 1-0 Norwich Prem 34 1314 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 14th April 2014, 12:24 PM
Daily Telegraph Logo
Jonathan Liew at Daily Telegraph

Fulham (1) 1-0 (0) Norwich

Once more, Norwich City found themselves in a waking nightmare on the banks of the Thames. They have not beaten Fulham in more than three decades, since 1986. And yet, for all the weight of history, this was a match they could not afford to lose.

They lost. Their Premier League survival now hangs by a thread. It was a scrappy, excruciatingly tense game, with Norwich having more possession and the better of the chances, certainly early in the game. But Hugo Rodallega's goal towards the end of the first half ultimately proved decisive. "Today we are lucky," said Fulham manager Felix Magath. "Norwich were the better team, but our goalkeeper was very great today."

If this performance and the league table still offer Norwich a certain comfort - clear of the relegation zone, still two points ahead of Fulham - then the fixture list will act as a harsh corrective.

Their last four games are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal: a baptism of fire for Neil Adams, the former BBC Radio Norfolk phone-in presenter and youth team coach appointed in place of Chris Hughton on a caretaker basis.

The timing of Hughton's sacking on Monday, so close to the end of the season, was curious, but it could be argued that the decision itself was sound. All season, Norwich have struggled for goals, for cohesion, but most of all for identity. How should Norwich City play? What should they look like? On this front, there already appears to be clear water between Adams and his predecessor.

None of Norwich's loan signings made the matchday squad, with Adams opting for the midfield diamond formation that served Norwich so well under Paul Lambert. Out went captain Sebastian Bassong and Joseph Yobo; into a revamped defence came Steven Whittaker and Michael Turner, and they did a pretty decent job.

So the early signs of the Adams era were encouraging, but the sharp end of a Premier League relegation fight offers no prizes for effort. And for all Norwich's impressive defensive solidity, the problem was further forward.

If you fail to score against Fulham, you have nobody to blame but yourselves. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, £8.5 million of pure footballing nonsense, again flattered to deceive up front, extending his undistinguished record to one goal in 23 games.

Yet praise is also due to Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, who denied Van Wolfswinkel with a wonderful fingertip save from a powerful first-half shot. It was the sort of save that turns games. "Ricky needs a goal," Adams said. "He's come with a hefty price tag, and he works his socks off, but strikers are paid to score goals. He's done everything right with the chance, and we all thought it was in. I suppose that's your luck."

Norwich will hope their luck has not deserted them when they need it most.

Stockdale made another good save immediately afterwards, from Leroy Fer's header, and Norwich could also have taken the lead when Robert Snodgrass put a free-kick against the crossbar.

Instead, it was Fulham who opened the scoring five minutes before the break. Kieran Richardson, a tireless and threatening presence all afternoon, won the free-kick on the left. Lewis Holtby swung it in, Fernando Amorebieta's flick wrong-footed the Norwich defence, and Rodallega was on hand on slam the ball in at the far post.

Rodallega has been virtually anonymous all season, just another one of the 41 players Fulham have used in league and cup this season. In many ways, his undoubted talent has been one of the main casualties of this season's turmoil: three different managers and about three dozen different systems.

Rodallega is not a complicated or especially cultured player, but give him the simple responsibility of leading the line, and he will punch holes in a defence.

"Hugo is showing that he is a very good striker and he is now in very good shape," Magath said. "We need Hugo."

Snodgrass missed another chance in the second half, attempting to slide the ball into an empty net but putting the ball wide under pressure from Amorebieta. Adams threw on all three substitutes in an attempt to change the game. But Fulham's innovative three-man defence held firm, Ashkan Dejagah missing a golden opportunity to make the game safe in injury time.

Full-time was greeted with a cheer that shook the stadium to its wooden floorboards. Fulham fans have found their voice in recent weeks, stung into action by the threat of Championship football, buoyed by the outstanding win at Villa Park last weekend, and at full glorious volume again here.

Magath praised their influence. "That is the way we can stay up in the league," he said.

"There's a dressing room full of desperately sad people," Adams said. "Tactically we were spot on, and I thought we dominated the game for long spells. But one mistake will cost you at this end of the table. We've got four very, very tough games, but we'll have a good go."

Those four games will decide whether Adams ends up as a hero or a footnote.

Source .
Since 1998
"It's been updated!"