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Fulham 2-1 Newcastle Premiership Matchday 16 1213 Daily Telegraph

last updated Tuesday 11th December 2012, 9:10 PM

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Gerry Cox at Daily Telegraph

Fulham (1) 2 Newcastle (0) 1

Dimitar Berbatov rolled back the years with a display of skill and elegance as Fulham won for the first time in eight games, beating Newcastle United with a goal in each half from Steve Sidwell and Hugo Rodallega.

Martin Jol had to think hard when he was asked if there was anything Dimitar Berbatov could not do, after the Bulgarian put on a masterclass of skill and guile to get Fulham back to winning ways.

The Fulham manager paused before saying: "On the training ground the other day I said I had never seen him score with an overhead kick, but he told me: 'You haven't seen all my games'."

Jol could afford to smile after ­seeing his side end a run of seven games without a win to claim a hard-fought victory over an enterprising Newcastle side, with Berbatov the architect in chief.

His display of skill and elegance, as well as no little effort, saw Fulham overcome a spirited fightback from Alan Pardew's men, who have not won away in the league this season and are dropping slowly towards the bottom of the table.

Once Steve Sidwell had put Fulham ahead in the 19th minute the form book was against a Newcastle victory - it is now 61 Premier League games and six years since they have recovered to win after being behind at half-time.

Hatem Ben Arfa gave them hope with an equaliser early in the second half, but awful defending by Fabrizio Coloccini allowed Hugo Rodallega a free header from Damien Duff's free-kick in the 63rd minute to score his first home goal for Fulham and the winner.

Although Coloccini almost redeemed himself by hitting the post with a curling shot as Newcastle drove forward for an equaliser, the Argentine was to blame for both goals and Pardew was not happy.

"We've only got ourselves to blame," he said.

"We had the game by the scruff of the neck and gave it away.

It's really disappointing because that was our best attacking football so far but our defending was really soft.

You cannot give away soft goals in this league."

Pardew conceded that Berbatov was superb in an unfamiliar playmaker role for Fulham.

"He was special tonight, a real problem.

He's a class act when he is in the mood."

Although he did not score, Berbatov was the game's outstanding player.

Filling in for Bryan Ruiz as Fulham's creative player, everything the Bulgarian did oozed class.

On another night he might have added two or three goals to the five he has scored for Fulham since moving from Manchester United for a bargain £5?million in the summer.

He was denied three times by Tim Krul, as the Newcastle goalkeeper blocked his shot in a one-on-one situation, saved another with his feet and then scrambled the ball away.

Instead it was Sidwell who put Fulham ahead.

The former Reading midfielder started the move with a pass towards Duff that was cut out by Coloccini, but the defender dithered and allowed the Irish winger to dispossess him.

Duff cut the ball back inside for Sidwell to sweep a first-time shot that hit Mike Williamson before looping over Krul.

Fulham's relief was tangible, the goal being their first in over five hours of football, but it also stirred Newcastle.

Coloccini went close to equalising when he sent in a thumping header in the 32nd minute only to see Sascha Riether head the ball off the line.

Demba Ba had a volley blocked by the German full-back just in front of the goal-line shortly before half-time before Ben Arfa equalised in the 54th minute.

The French midfielder, returning after four games out with a hamstring injury, looked to have no sight of the goal when he received the ball in the right-hand corner.

However, he curled in a shot that took a deflection off John Arne Riise's outstretched right boot and looped high over Mark Schwarzer, on to the underside of the bar, and into the net.

Newcastle gained a spring in their step and Fulham looked stunned.

However, Jol's men recovered their composure and regained the lead when Rodallega headed home from close range.

Both sides had chances to score, with Coloccini clipping the far post, while Schwarzer held long shots from Ba and Jonás Gutiérrez in quick succession.

Fulham went close too, and held on for the victory that takes them three points away from Newcastle and the danger zone.

"We needed that," Jol said.

"We have been playing OK but not getting the results we deserved.

Berbatov is a quality player and my squad realises that.

"When Ruiz is not there he keeps together our playing culture.

He didn't score but he covered more ground than ever before so he was maybe tired when we needed him to score goals.

"He's not moaning or sulking about it, though.

He is doing his job and I am satisfied."

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Riether, Baird, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Baird, Sidwell, Kacaniklic (Dejegah 62); Berbatov, Rodallega (Petric 86) Subs: Etheridge, Senderos, Karagounis, Richardson, Diaara.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon; Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 70), Anita (Marveaux 86), Tiote (Bigirimana 86), Gutiérrez; Ba, Cissé.
Subs: Harper, Perch, Ferguson, Taverner.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

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