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Fulham 2-0 Birmingham - Match Report

last updated Tuesday 23rd November 2010, 12:30 PM
Fulham (0) 2 Birmingham (0) 0

Fulham striker Erik Nevland
Erik Nevland
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Fulham strikers Brian McBride and Erik Nevland struck to haul Fulham out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three and leave Birmingham on the brink of relegation.

McBride converted Jimmy Bullard's 52nd-minute free-kick to edge the Cottagers out of the drop zone for the first time since Boxing Day, before Nevland sealed a famous 2-0 victory with a fine finish.

It was the first time the London club had registered successive league victories since September 2006 and the win sets them up beautifully for their nerve-shredding finale at Portsmouth.

Even manager Roy Hodgson appeared to accept his side's seven-year stay in the top flight was over after the 3-1 defeat by Sunderland a month ago, but their remarkable escape act continues.

Fulham striker Brian McBride
Fulham striker
Brian McBride
Brian McBride
Winning three of their last four matches has left them on the threshold of a stunning achievement - at one point they were 1/50 for the drop - that could yet be ruined at Fratton Park.

In contrast, Birmingham are heading in the opposite direction.

With the stakes so high - £35million is said to be the cost of relegation - the match was short on quality but high in drama, particularly in a nail-biting second half.

To their credit, Fulham tried to play football, while a workmanlike Birmingham relied on James McFadden for their only moments of inspiration.

The opening of the match was greeted by a crescendo of noise as Fulham fans, armed with 'clappers', sought to lift their team.

And they were almost given the dream start when McBride headed a cross by Paul Konchesky onto the crossbar, although the linesman had wrongly flagged for offside.

Lightning reflexes from Maik Taylor denied Fulham in the eighth minute as Simon Davies pulled the trigger on Bullard's free-kick, only for the Blues goalkeeper to intervene superbly.

Errors began to creep into Fulham's play just as they sought to crank up the pressure on a side that has failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 17 matches.

Match Stats Fulham Birmingham
Goals 2 0
Possession 58% 42%
Goal attempts 9 2
On Target 6 0
Corners 2 8
Off-sides 7 4
Saves 1 4
Fouls 10 12
Yellows 2 5
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
Brave defending from centre-back Brede Hangeland snuffed out two promising attacks by Birmingham, whose influence on the match was growing.

A corner from the left resulted in some aerial ping-pong, with Hangeland, Aaron Hughes and Clint Dempsey scrambling desperately to clear.

McFadden sliced Fulham open with a jinking run that Sebastian Larsson concluded with a dangerous cross that Mikael Forssell could not control.

The Cottagers' goal was coming under mounting pressure, but their defence, led by the magnificent Hangeland, were keeping them at bay.

Play became increasingly cagey, but one slick interchange by Fulham, involving Bullard and Dempsey, interrupted the midfield battle that was unfolding.

Only a crucial interception from Hughes prevented Birmingham from taking the lead in the 42nd minute, with McFadden again doing the damage.

The Scotland forward weaved his way into space and picked out Forssell, who only had keeper Kasey Keller to beat, but Hughes arrived in the nick of time.

Fulham started the second half with a flourish and crept ahead in the 52nd minute.

Jaidi conceded a free-kick for an elbow on McBride that Bullard lofted into the box and the American striker escaped some sloppy marking to nod home virtually on his knees.

Birmingham were at panic stations once again a heartbeat later when Diomansy Kamara jinked his way into the box, but he chose to shoot from an acute angle when he should have squared across goal.

McFadden flashed an effort narrowly wide and in the 68th minute Kamara - who had ousted David Healy from the starting line-up - was replaced by Nevland.

Birmingham won a dangerous free-kick but failed to employ their controversial tactic of using Jaidi to block the goalkeeper's vision and Fulham cleared the danger.

Dempsey missed a good chance to extend the lead when he sent a close-range header over the crossbar.

The tension of the occasion appeared to be getting to Fulham as they repeatedly gave the ball away, but they put the result beyond doubt with four minutes to go.

Nevland collected a bouncing ball, escaped Jaidi in a sprint into the box before rifling past Taylor.

Hodgson: We're not safe yet
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson muted the carnival atmosphere that descended on Craven Cottage today by declaring: 'We're not safe yet.' Victory over Portsmouth at Fratton Park in next Sunday's finale would complete a remarkable escape act and Hodgson is ready to demand one last push from his side.

He said: 'We've been written off for a long time and I understand that because we've been at the bottom of the table for a long time.

'It's not been easy for myself and my players to consistently face questions like 'is that the end?' and 'are you finished?'.

'To say the right thing and what you believe without making yourself look foolish is difficult.

'The atmosphere right now is euphoric and I'm happy about that because you need to take all the good moments that come in football.

'But it's not finished yet and the euphoria of this week could turn into sadness next Sunday if we're relegated.

'But if that happens, and most people thought it would happen long before this, then we will have gone down fighting and playing football.

'The players will have to be ready to play a cup final against Portsmouth.

'I'm just happy we've got the chance because after the Liverpool defeat it looked like it would take a miracle to survive.'

McBride converted Jimmy Bullard's 52nd-minute free-kick to nudge Fulham ahead before Nevland pounced late on to register the club's first back-to-back top flight wins since September 2006.

Hodgson said: 'I feel relieved and more than satisfied with the performance because I thought we were good.

'I'm full of admiration for the players who showed mental courage in a game they had to win. They stuck to their task and got their reward.

'We stood up and were counted at a time when we needed to be.'

Birmingham's defeat has left them on the brink of an immediate return to the Coca-Cola Championship but manager Alex McLeish refused to raise the white flag.

The Blues host Blackburn on Sunday and McLeish said: 'It goes to the wire and we still have a lifeline.

'There's still an opportunity for us to stay up. It's no longer in our hands but then it probably wasn't before today.

'We have to win next weekend and we're capable of doing that. I've never found it difficult to pick the team up.

'Now the players have to do everything in their power. We fight on for another week.

'I thought we had a couple of good chances today that we didn't capitalise on. To lose the second goal when we were chasing the game was hard to take.'

Fulham Keller, Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard (Andreasen 88), Murphy, Dempsey (Healy 90),Kamara (Nevland 67), McBride.
Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra.

Booked: Stalteri, Davies.

Goals: McBride 52, Nevland 87.

Birmingham Maik Taylor, Kelly, Jaidi, Ridgewell (Queudrue 46), Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Johnson, Kapo (Zarate 58),Forssell (Jerome 74), McFadden.
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Parnaby.

Booked: Muamba, Queudrue, Jerome, Jaidi, McFadden.

Att: 25,308

b: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

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