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Fulham create terror - S. Telegraph

last updated Sunday 13th January 2002, 8:58 AM
Fulham (2) 2 Middlesbrough (1) 1
Fulham boss Jean Tigana had always envisaged that a partnership of Louis Saha and Steve Marlet could strike terror into defences, but with Marlet, a record £11 million signing, injured until recently, the Fulham manager has had to show patience. Yesterday that wait ended as their goals saw off Middlesbrough.

The away team had suggested a different outcome as they forged ahead inside the first 10 minutes. For a side not in the best of form, that was a considerable fillip but with Saha's introduction after the half-hour mark, Boro began to come apart.

Having scored late on at Wycombe to maintain Fulham's interest in the FA Cup, Marlet was at least one striker approaching this contest with a measure of confidence. There were few among the opposition ranks after a prolonged run of ineptitude in front of goal, though with their early lead they were soon filled with confidence, Colin Cooper heading in at the far post from a Carlos Marinelli free kick.

Fulham were stunned, none more so than Edwin Van der Sar who had gone to catch the in-swinging delivery only to drop his hands, in the mistaken belief that it was falling safely behind. For the rest of the half the Dutchman was spared further embarrassment as Fulham dominated possession.

They were nearly back on terms straight away with Marlet breaking clear. Although Mark Crossley blocked his advance, the goalkeeper was helpless as Barry Hayles climbed but his poor headed attempt easily cleared the bar. It needed the introduction of Saha in the 36th minute to improve Fulham's potency.

Saha had been involved a mere four minutes when Steed Malbranque's set-piece cleared the red shirts and presented an opening which he skilfully exploited with a twisting header. The same player then helped fire Fulham into an interval lead, his drilled ball into the area diverting off Gianluca Festa. In a flash Marlet was on to it and Crossley was beaten for a second time.

Boro's protestations that Marlet had sprung from an offside position produced a yellow card for Paul Ince. The game had turned against them but Ince and his team could have no complaint because they had been pushed further and further back.

The deficit would have doubled on the hour had Robbie Mustoe not been stationed on the line to boot away Saha's header. The substitute was causing Boro no end of distress; his next involvement provoked a flurry of penalty-box activity that he felt should have won him a spot-kick.

Noel Whelan drove a shot across the goalmouth to remind Fulham they could ill afford to rest on their lead. Boro mounted more raids but could not find a finish.
Source S. Telegraph by Trevor Haylett
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