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Fulham more inventive - S. Times

last updated Sunday 18th November 2001, 10:00 AM
Fulham 3 (2) - 1 (0) Newcastle
And so it goes on. For the 27th consecutive occasion, Newcastle failed to win a game in London. Nor did they deserve to, though if Craig Bellamy had put away his chance midway through the first half, if Fulham had not so swiftly countered with a goal of their own, if Alan Shearer had not missed a second-half penalty, or been awarded another, perhaps it might have been different.

Undeservedly so, however. Overall, Fulham were far the livelier, more penetrative, a more inventive team, and Shay Given, a hero of the Republic of Ireland’s performance in Tehran last Thursday, found himself once again busily involved.

When Newcastle did get back into the game after 65 minutes, as Gary Speed headed in Aaron Hughes’s right-wing cross, making the score 2-1, it was substantially more than they deserved. Fulham, in the first 10 minutes of that second half, just as for much of the preceding 45 minutes, had dictated the game, and made abundant chances, taking two of them. The match turned on two early incidents. When Bellamy turned comfortably past his fellow Welshman, Andy Melville, a Newcastle goal looked certain. But out came Fulham’s big keeper, Edwin van der Sar, to block Bellamy’s shot.

Down almost immediately to the other end went Fulham. A long ball into the box from John Collins was inadequately headed out by Newcastle’s Rob Elliott. It fell to Sylvain Legwinski, who neatly found Louis Saha, who curled a left-footed shot high into the top left-hand corner of the Newcastle goal.

It was hardly Newcastle’s day when it came to defensive headers. The third Fulham goal, which properly put the game beyond Newcastle’s reach, on 70 minutes, arrived when Steed Malbranque’s left-wing corner skidded off the head of Andy O’Brien and was headed in by Barry Hayles.

It was a bitter-sweet afternoon for Newcastle manager Bobby Robson. He was applauded when he took up his position by a Fulham crowd which clearly remembered him both as manager and player at Craven Cottage. Indeed, Johnny Haynes, for so long his impressive partner at inside-forward here, lapped the ground to similar applause at half-time.

Any chance that Newcastle had of saving the match vanished when Shearer missed a penalty 11 minutes from the end. The referee decided that Alain Goma’s challenge on Laurent Robert was culpable, only for Van der Sar to turn Shearer’s kick gallantly on to a post. Goma then felled Shearer which looked worthier of a penalty, but no award was forthcoming. Fulham, after taking the lead, became dominant, and their second goal on 28 minutes exposed the deficiencies of Newcastle’s defence. A simple but telling pass inside the full-back by Malbranque released Legwinski, who roared in from the right to drive past Given.

Given subsequently blocked a shot by Malbranque on the ground, and reached up resourcefully to push the ball to safety when Hayles followed up and shot again. Four minutes later, when Legwinski drove the ball past him, Nolberto Solano was there to clear from the goalmouth.

Meanwhile, one wonders whether Fulham, in all this exuberance, will be successful in overcoming objections from local residents to the enlargement of their ground. Years ago Craven Cottage frequently had crowds of 40,000 and more with no objection to be heard: but that, of course, was well before the area was gentrified.

For all their elan, Fulham’s French manager, Jean Tigana, says his dream is “to arrive between eighth and 12th”. Indeed, in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, they were steadily threatening. Saha was clean through, but Given, rushing desperately out of his goal, made a good save. Subsequently, he had less trouble dealing with a header from the same player.

It was Newcastle, however, who struck when they reduced the lead through Speed’s header and, as Robson said, there was then every hope his team might save the game. But on 70 minutes came Hayles’s header, and justice was finally done.

Van der Sar, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Brevett, Davis, Malbranque (Goldbaek 88), Legwinski, Collins (Clark 67), Hayles, Saha.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Ouaddou, Stolcers.

Saha 19, Legwinski 28, Hayles 70


Given, Hughes, Dabizas (Distin 75), O'Brien, Elliott, Solano (Lua-Lua 77), Lee (Ameobi 90), Speed, Robert,
Shearer, Bellamy.

Subs Not Used: Acuna, Harper.
Booked: Elliott, Dabizas, Robert, O'Brien, Lee, Shearer.

Speed 64

Att: 21,159 Ref: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).
Source Sunday Times by Brian Glanville
Since 1998
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