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Fulham 1-0 Sheff Utd

last updated Sunday 27th August 2006, 12:30 AM
Jimmy Bullard provided the inspiration once again as Fulham clinched their first win of the season in a tense 1-0 victory against Sheffield United.
Jimmy Bullard
Jimmy Bullard scores again

 

Bullard was man of the match against Bolton in midweek, firing the 90th minute penalty that secure a late point, and he produced further heroics on Saturday.

The 27-year-old's delivery was a menace all afternoon but he saved the best for the 40th minute when he curled home a sublime 28-yard free-kick.

And his contribution was not confined to dead-ball situations as he once again proved Fulham's most inventive player, impressing with a typically industrious display in midfield.

After just three games Bullard has emerged as a fans' favourite and his £2.5million transfer from Wigan looks good business for boss Chris Coleman.

It is the second time in four days that Bullard had starred but his brilliance did not mask Fulham's chronic lack of creativity elsewhere on the pitch.

Steed Malbranque - the French midfielder who has been banished to the reserves by Coleman - is sorely missed, especially with skipper Luis Boa Morte having another off-day.

One consolation for Coleman is that his defence looks to have shaken off their demons following the 5-1 opening day thrashing at Manchester United.

They were assisted, however, by a United outfit who offered little threat until late on - even with striker Rob Hulse back in the side after recovering from a thigh strain.

Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi hardly had a save to make all match, although the home side had to weather a nervy last 20 minutes when the Blades began to play with more urgency.

United were in the contest until the final whistle and manager Neil Warnock, who returned to the dug-out after completing his two-match touchline ban, could be encouraged by another spirited effort.

Bullard was the difference between the teams and the Newham-born midfielder made a big impact early on, swinging in a free-kick for Ian Pearce and then forcing a fine save from Paddy Kenny.

Match Stats Fulham Sheff Utd
Goals 1 0
Possession 49% 51%
Goal attempts 12 10
On Target 5 1
Corners 9 5
Off-sides 2 5
Fouls 17 17
Yellows 3 3
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

A crafty back-heel from Boa Morte released Franck Queudrue but Chris Montgomery, who replaced David Sommeil in the starting line-up, prevented the move developing with a timely tackle.

Fulham strung a host of passes together in the 18th minute with Papa Bouba Diop commanding the midfield but Bullard's final shot sailed over the crossbar.

A quick free-kick from Queudrue allowed Bullard to try his luck again but the ball deflected off left-back David Unsworth, taking it away from danger.

United striker Danny Webber made a eye-catching run into the box from the left but was dispossessed by Philippe Christanval just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Fulham nearly broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when John hit the post with Kenny beaten and Leigh Bromby cleared before the home side could convert the rebound.

United were making some headway down the right with Bromby firing a couple of useful crosses but Fulham's defence, with Christanval prominent, was in a resolute mood.

Blades skipper Chris Morgan was given a free header from Michael Tonge's corner but his accuracy was poor and the chance was gone.

Bullard's set-piece delivery was still causing problems as John nodded inches wide a 33rd minute cross with the linesman then raising his flag for offside.

Fulham could not be denied in the 40th minute, however, and predictably it was Bullard who provided the goal.

Morgan brought down Boa Morte 28 yards out and Bullard curled the free-kick into the top left corner, giving Kenny no chance.

Webber had the ball in the net in the 45th minute with a cool piece of finishing at the other end only for the linesman to signal offside.

Tonge was booked for bringing down Michael Brown who had broken free and Hulse then smashed wide of the right post from long range as the Blades continued to look sharper in the second half.

Mikele Leigertwood was shown a yellow card for kicking Bullard, who was at the hub of everything Fulham did, in a good piece of refereeing from Poll who played advantage first.

Diop was booked for hacking down Tonge and John - who was named on the bench for Bolton - was then booed as he was substituted, replaced by Heidar Helguson.

Brown was replaced by Tomasz Radzinski and the Canadian international made a marauding run down the right which he ruined when he tried to find Boa Morte instead of shooting.

The ball fell to Bullard whose powerful shot struck the post and Brian McBride went close in the dying moments as Fulham went in search of a second.

Fulham boss Chris Coleman hailed Jimmy Bullard as 'the best £2million we ever spent' after watching him inspire today's 1-0 victory over Sheffield United.

Bullard clinched maximum points with a magnificent 40th-minute curling free-kick from 28 yards and the midfielder was Fulham's most inventive player by some margin.

Coleman was reluctant to back the 27-year-old summer signing from Wigan for an England call-up but left little doubt over the impact he has made at Craven Cottage.

'It looks like there are twins on the pitch because Jimmy covers so much ground,' he said.

'He was outstanding and I have to slow him down a bit because he wants to do too much. But how do you get the reins on someone who likes playing football as much as him?

'I don't want to put extra pressure on Jimmy by saying he should be called up for England.

'England have many great players in central midfield - Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Owen Hargreaves for example.

'But Jimmy is a very good central midfielder at this level. We have to give him some rope and leave him alone as much as possible.

'His enthusiasm is infectious and he's a great person to have in the dressing room. He's lively and we needed someone like him after losing at Old Trafford.

'Jimmy is the best £2million we ever spent. He's been here two minutes and already the fans love him. And there's more to come.'

Fulham created more chances throughout and would have won with greater conviction but Bullard and Collins John hit the post while Tomasz Radzinski fluffed a golden opportunity near the end.

Their failure to stretch the lead meant they never pulled away and Sheffield substitute David Sommeil could have snatched all three points at the end in a tense finish.

'We hit the post twice and Radzinski should have scored. Towards the end they started pumping in balls which gave a false impression of the match,' said Coleman.

'We should have scored more and it's great for our confidence to get off the mark. It took us four games to get three points last season.'

Coleman revealed there is no update on Steed Malbranque but hopes the French midfielder will be sold before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

'There's been talk about Steed going to West Ham but the deal will be done when it's done. Hopefully something will be done before Thursday,' he said.

'He needs to play football somewhere. He wants to go to a club with more ambition than us. We'll see where that is.'

United boss Neil Warnock came face to face with referee Graham Poll for the first time since landing a two-match touchline ban.

Warnock was given the suspension for last season's spat with Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell and today was his first game back in the dugout.

He saluted Bullard's free-kick but insists Poll got it wrong in awarding the set-piece for Chris Morgan's challenge on Luis Boa Morte.

'I thought we did all right. Fulham have a good home record and it was good to see the way they held on to their lead - we have to learn from that,' he said.

'David Sommeil had a great chance at the death but I'm disappointed with the free-kick. It was never a free-kick. It was a fabulous finish but never a free-kick.

'I can show you 20 similar free-kicks that weren't given. I told Poll it was never a free-kick in a million years and that's all you can do.'

Fulham:
Niemi, Rosenior, Christanval, Pearce, Queudrue, Brown (Radzinski 68), Diop, Bullard, Boa Morte, John (Helguson 67), McBride.
Subs Not Used: Drobny, Volz, Bocanegra.

Booked: Diop (66,f), Helguson (80,f), Bullard(90,f).

Goals: Bullard 40.

Sheff Utd:
Kenny, Bromby (Sommeil 80), Morgan, Jagielka, Unsworth, Montgomery (Nade 64), Tonge (Alan Quinn 72), Leigertwood, Armstrong, Hulse, Webber.
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Akinbiyi.

Booked: Tonge, Leigertwood, Alan Quinn.

Att: 18,362.

Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

 

 

 

 

Source Soccernet
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