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Fulham 1-1 Blackburn: Battling Cottagers held

last updated Sunday 22nd April 2007, 12:15 AM
Papa Bouba Diop
Vincenzo Montella

Fulham made it nine matches without a win after fighting for a precious point against Blackburn in their bid to avoid relegation from the Barclays Premiership.

Lawrie Sanchez saw his side go ahead on his home debut in front of fired-up fans as on-loan Italian striker Vincenzo Montella claimed the goal.

But Blackburn's UEFA Cup dream, boosted by their midweek win over Watford, was revived as Benni McCarthy slotted in his 21st goal of the season for a well-earned equaliser.

Fulham now have to face Arsenal and Liverpool in successive matches and their survival hopes are not looking good after Charlton, Sheffield United and West Ham picked up points.

But they showed they have the fight and commitment to pull it off.

Montella's inclusion met with immediate approval from the Fulham fans even though his previous substitute appearances, after a purple patch of four goals in three games, had been unproductive since January.

The pocket-sized Roma veteran had also been sent off in an FA Cup tie against Tottenham and served a three-match suspension

Match Stats Fulham Blackburn
Goals 1 1
Possession 51% 49%
Goal attempts 14 22
On Target 6 9
Corners 7 11
Off-sides 2 7
Fouls 17 15
Yellows 1 1
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

But buoyed by his presence, Fulham fans launched a barrage of noise from the first whistle which was rarely apparent under the previous management regime this season and were encouraged by some crisp tackling early on.

Antti Niemi comfortably kept out David Bentley's well-struck 35-yard free-kick in the opening minutes after a foul on Jason Roberts but the roof nearly came off Craven Cottage in the 10th minute when Fulham went ahead.

Montella claimed the goal even though it looked doubtful he managed a touch with a swinging foot after the giant Papa Bouba Diop rose above even taller Rovers defender Chris Samba to power in a header which bounced past a bemused Brad Friedel following a Simon Davies corner.

Montella ran away in triumph but it was clear from team-mates' reaction that they credited Diop's prodigious leap and firm contact.

Rovers were stunned and could not get a comeback going quickly because of erratic passing but there were alarms at the back for Fulham when Morten Gamst Pedersen's free-kick from the right had Niemi flapping behind a screen of players and glad to see the ball pass right through the penalty area to safety.

Niemi seemed to redeem himself in the 22nd minute when he dived to touch over another Pedersen free-kick from distance.

But referee Graham Poll, who had booked Fulham skipper Michael Brown for the foul, shocked the Blackburn players by awarding a goal-kick.

Poll then seemed to allow Blackburn free rein for a series of tasty tackles and after some verbal abuse from the crowd appeared to grab his referee's badge.

Fulham's Liam Rosenior headed Bentley's cross strongly towards his own goal and saw Niemi flying through the air to touch it against the top of a post.

Fulham had already needed Zat Knight in perfect position to clear off the line after Roberts broke clear down the inside right channel to lift his shot over Niemi.

Diop pounced on Montella's pull-back to hit a low shot which deflected for a corner.

Blackburn controlled most of the second half, McCarthy rattling the crossbar and Niemi making a brave block and save from Pedersen's head and foot.

Stephen Warnock roared down the left, skipped past Rosenior and drilled in a low cross for McCarthy who popped up in the six-yard box to slot the ball home.

Fulham showed spirit and were roared on by their fans but it could have got worse.

McCarthy was just offside when lashing past Niemi four minutes after his goal.

And the Finnish goalkeeper made another outstanding stop from Pedersen before Fulham skipper Brown scuffed a shot over after good work by substitute Wayne Routledge.

Fulham put in a grandstand finish after riding a storm of Rovers pressure but Diop and Knight just failed to find the target late on.

Fulham manager Lawrie Sanchez:
"It's disappointing we couldn't get a win but with three games to go we are in a little group of six down at the bottom and we are top of it. That is not so bad.

"We've had just 10 days to prepare what I want here and despite the second half there are a lot of positives.

"The players know me now and know that if they don't do what I ask them to do for me then somebody else will be given the chance."


Blackburn boss Mark Hughes:
"We are scratching our heads about how we didn't win. We created numerous chances and were completely dominant in the second half.

"But the boys have come back well after an emotional week. Going out of the FA Cup was a hard experience as was going out of the UEFA Cup earlier this season.

"But we showed the character to bounce back against Watford in midweek and this is another point. I think we have to win all our remaining games now to get into the UEFA Cup again.

Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Knight, Christanval (Volz 76), Bocanegra, Davies, Brown, Diop, Radzinski (Dempsey 83), Montella (Routledge 72), McBride.
Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Helguson.

Booked: Brown (20,f)

Goals: Montella 10
Right-footed into top-left of goal from 6 yards out on the left side of six-yard box. Assist, header, by Papa Bouba Diop from centre of penalty area.

Blackburn: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Mokoena, Dunn, Pedersen, Roberts, McCarthy.
Subs Not Used: Brown, Khizanishvili, Kerimoglu, Gallagher, Derbyshire.

Booked: Bentley.

Goals: McCarthy 61.

Att: 23,652.

Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).













































Source soccernet
Since 1998
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