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Fulham rise above Leeds - S.Telegraph

last updated Sunday 08th December 2002, 3:50 PM
Fulham (1) 1 Leeds (0) 0
A horrendous injury list, a manager apparently on the verge of the sack, arguments over a new home and a chairman who not only cannot shut up but sees conspiracy theories everywhere he looks. And that is just Fulham, so you can understand how Leeds fans must feel, whose club are experiencing all those problems, as well as a dressing-room that seems to be about as united as the Fire Brigades Union.

Fulham midfielder Bjarne Goldbaek
Fulham midfielder Bjarne Goldbaek beats goal scorer Luis Boa Morte to get Man of the Match
That is probably an apt description since manager Terry Venables and chairman Peter Ridsdale have spent the past few months trying to douse rumours that have spread like wildfire, most of which have been started under their own roof.

The most persistent is that the players simply do not want to play for Venables and the man himself would have found that hard to refute after a simply shocking first 45 minutes that must have made Fulham officials reluctant to send any crockery into the away dressing-room at half-time.

Fulham manager Jean Tigana, despite importing the beautiful game into Craven Cottage and now Loftus Road, is also wondering whether he will be sucking on a toothpick somewhere else next season after starting the day with only one win from 10 games.

But his side could have been cracking open the champagne at half-time if they had not suffered their usual coyness in front of goal and found Paul Robinson in the sort of form that will convince many people that he is England's goalkeeper-elect. They certainly should have had much more than the one-goal lead provided by Martin Djetou.

With Fulham's four main strikers out injured or suspended, Luis Boa Morte took it upon himself to become a one-man running machine at the Leeds defence. It almost produced a goal for him in the opening minutes and he broke what resistance Leeds could muster after 10.

Michael Duberry was forced to concede a corner as Boa Morte ran on to a return pass from Malbranque and from Pierre Wome's kick, Djetou headed his first goal since his arrival on loan from Parma.

Fulham should have had the points tucked away after half an hour. Steed Malbranque took an almighty a swing at a chance he had only to caress into the net after another twisting run from Boa Morte and the ball rebounded back into play off the crossbar. Then Robinson made a flying save from Sean Davis's header.

Venables and Ridsdale started the match alongside each other in the directors' box but they looked about as chatty as those non-communicating Aussie strikers Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, currently forced to share each other's company in the treatment room.

You certainly would not mistake Venables and Ridsdale for Richard and Judy, the pair not even turning in one another's direction when Fulham opened the scoring. Instead, locked in their own worlds, they both stared blankly into the middle distance.

Minutes later, Venables skipped down the stairs to take up his position on the bench, where he feels more comfortable, though it is doubtful whether he found much more harmony there.

The away supporters, responding to the manager's plea to get on his team's side rather than on his back, sang: "Stand up and sing for Leeds", though by the end, it had changed to "Terry, Terry, time to go."

The one player who gets unequivocal support from those fans is Alan Smith. But after a subdued performance, he was replaced at half-time by Robbie Fowler. He was said "not to be feeling well" and it would have been an astonishing tactical change, because the other striker was Michael Bridges, who was making his first start for 26 months.

Fowler has hardly played in the past eight months but star quality does not rust and he was the one player who looked as though he could turn the game, his header forcing Edwin Van der Saar into a fine save.

Fulham seemed to lack the heart to put Leeds out of their misery, Davis spurning another open goal after Robinson got a hand on Boa Morte's shot and the same player cracking the ball against the bar from three yards in the dying minutes.

Victory lifted Fulham from their uncomfortable position near the foot of the table and the quality of their play made suggestions that Tigana may be sacked seem ludicrous.

Venables, in contrast, finds himself deeper in the mire and now facing the same challenge he had in his last job at Middlesbrough, to keep his club in the Premiership. Marching on together? Not on the evidence of this display.

Van der Sar, Finnan, Melville, Wome, Brevett, Goldbaek, Malbranque, Davis, Legwinski, Boa Morte, Djetou.
Subs Not Used: Inamoto, Taylor, Knight, Stolcers, Willock.
Booked: Legwinski, Davis, Wome.
Goals: Djetou 10.

Robinson, Kelly, Woodgate, Duberry, Harte (Mills 73), Bakke, Okon, McPhail (Milner 57), Wilcox, Smith (Fowler 45), Bridges.
Subs Not Used: Martyn, Lucic.
Booked: Bakke, Fowler, Wilcox, Woodgate.
Att: 17,494
Ref: P Durkin (Dorset).
Source S.Telegraph by Roy Collins
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