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Fulham riled by Savage - The Guardian

last updated Monday 18th November 2002, 11:26 AM
Fulham 0 Birmingham 0

If avoiding a fifth successive defeat yesterday has eased the pressure on Jean Tigana's tenuous position as Fulham's coach, then he has as much cause to be thankful for a poorly struck penalty as a determined display by his team, who finished with nine men.

The Frenchman was in anything but a benevolent mood, however, after Steve Marlet followed Rufus Brevett to the dressing room. Tigana had no complaints about either dismissal but his trademark reluctance to say anything remotely controversial finally deserted him.

  Fulham Manager Jean Tigana  
  Fulham Manager Jean Tigana makes his point
And the cause of this volte face? None other than the antics of that celebrated enfant terrible of the Premiership, Robert William Savage.

Not for the first time in his career the Welsh midfielder was involved in the dismissal of an opposing player: on this occasion Marlet, for kicking him in retaliation for a challenge of dubious legality in the 79th minute.

"Marlet deserved a red card but Savage staying on the pitch was unacceptable," Tigana said. "Savage's challenge was a tackle from behind and that is a sending-off offence. I'm very disappointed."

Inevitably Savage, along with Birmingham's manager Steve Bruce, disagreed with Tigana's version of events. Bruce adopted the celebrated strategy of another French manager, Arsène Wenger, in claiming he did not have a good view of the incident.

By contrast, he had no doubt that Savage's groin injury - the result of a futile challenge on Fulham's goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar - was somewhat self-inflicted. "I don't think Robbie had any chance of getting the ball," he said. "It wasn't very wise to jump at a 6ft 8in-tall giant. He's learned a hard lesson."

So, too, did Birmingham after Brevett made a diving one-handed save from Darren Purse - one that Van der Sar would have been proud to execute - and was sent off. Stern John thumped his penalty straight at Van der Sar before Geoff Horsfield put the rebound wide.

Purse came closest to making the numerical advantage count with another header, thwarted this time by a legitimate save. And when the substitute Clinton Morrison did beat Van der Sar in stoppage-time the effort was disallowed for offside.

Birmingham City
Vaesen; Purse; Lazaridis; Cisse, Cunningham, Devlin, John, Kenna, Savage, Tebily; Horsfield.

Van der Sar; Brevett, Finnan, Goma, Melville; Clark, Goldbaek, Legwinski (Djetou), Malbranque; Boa Morte, Marlet.

Referee: Messias, M. D. (York)

Attendance: 26,164
Source The Guardian by Adrian Milledge
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