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Fulham should have romped it - The Times

last updated Monday 10th September 2001, 7:15 AM
Charlton Athletic 1 Fulham 1

FULHAM may have arrived in the FA Barclaycard Premiership with an embarrassment of riches at their disposal courtesy of Mohamed Al Fayed, their wealthy chairman, but the currency of staying among the elite is goals. When the day of reckoning is upon them in May, it is hoped that they do not regret their day out at The Valley yesterday.

Against a depleted Charlton Athletic side that offered little more than courage in the face of long odds, Fulham should have won at a canter. Try as they might, though, impressive as they were, Fulham only once found the net. The squandering of two points bordered on the inexcusable.

“Yes, we lost two points,” Jean Tigana, the Fulham manager, said. “We had a problem with finishing but we kept playing, kept playing nice football, and that is what is most important to me. We had many chances, of course we are disappointed.”

Tigana has spent £33 million on strengthening his squad since the Nationwide League first division was won with such ease and when Steve Marlet, the £11.5 million striker bought from Lyons, recovers from injury, maybe Fulham can turn superiority into victory.

Injuries sustained in the heat of Premiership combat are par for the course; those sustained on the training pitch leave managers in a state of despair. Thus Alan Curbishley could only hang his head when the enthusiasm of Scott Parker got the better of him on Friday, his youthful exuberance leaving Jonatan Johansson nursing a badly bruised ankle. Johansson became the tenth Charlton player unavailable to face Fulham and it showed. In a scrappy first half and throughout much of the second period, too, they played like the ragbag collection they were. Fulham’s free-flowing football, with John Collins and Sylvain Legwinski often to the fore, sliced through the home defence at will.

“I don’t like using the injuries as an excuse but it’s not helping us,” Curbishley said. “It didn’t help that we kept giving Fulham the ball, either. If we’d passed it better we might have been OK, but we kept giving it back to them. I suppose I’ve got to be delighted with a point.”

A first-half shot count of 10-1 in Fulham’s favour summed up the proceedings, though it was Charlton, bizarrely, who went in front in the 33rd minute. Chris Powell crossed from the left, Shaun Bartlett nodded back from beyond the far post and Andy Melville swung his right leg. The ball struck his shin and rocketed past Edwin van der Sar.

Four minutes later, justice was done. Legwinski raced through, drew a useful save from Dean Kiely and accepted that the chance had gone begging. Not so Luis Boa Morte. He may not be as renowned or as skilful as Louis Saha, his prolific strike partner, but the finish was Saha-esque, a low drive through a mass of bodies in the six-yard area.

Fulham persevered, with Saha, Steve Finnan and Legwinski missing openings, and Charlton did the best they could. They were more competitive after the interval, occasionally waking Van der Sar from his slumber, but rarely threatened to score.

Fulham did, mostly on the break, but with a pace and precision that will earn them many admirers this season. Boa Morte drove wide, Steed Malbranque, a substitute, blazed over with his first touch and Sean Davis, otherwise immaculate, scooped an effort into the stand rather than Kiely’s net. “I suppose a share of the points was a fair reflection,” Mark Fish, the Charlton defender, said. And then he laughed, giving the game away. Fulham should have romped it.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC (3-5-2): D Kiely 5 — A Todd 5, S Brown 5, M Fish 6 — L Young 4, G Stuart 6, S Parker 6 (sub: P Konchesky, 70min, 6), J Euell 4, C Powell 4 — K Lisbie 4 (sub: J Robinson, 46, 6), S Bartlett 5 (sub: J Salako, 80). Substitutes not used: B Roberts, J Fortune. Booked: Brown, Bartlett.

FULHAM (4-4-2): E van der Sar 5 — S Finnan 6, A Melville 4, K Symons 5, R Brevett 6 — S Legwinski 7, S Davis 7, L Clark 7 (sub: S Malbranque, 61, 6), J Collins 7 — L Saha 6 (sub: B Hayles, 76), L Boa Morte 6. Substitutes not used: M Taylor, B Goldbaek, A Ouaddou.

Referee: J Winter 6
Source The Times by Russell Kempson
Since 1998
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