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Fulham start finishing - S.Times

last updated Sunday 10th February 2002, 4:32 PM
Fulham striker Steve Marlet
Fulham striker Steve Marlet too fast for Blackburn

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Fulham 2 Blackburn 0
Fulham at last added finishing to their finesse, after an uneasy start, could well have beaten Blackburn more heavily. By the end, Blackburn, as even their manager Graeme Souness admitted, “were guilty of dropping their heads a little”.

Craig Short, their central defender, was sent off near the close for thrusting an arm at Steve Marlet. And Turkish international Tugay was booked for the fifth time, meaning both players will now miss the Worthington Cup Final.

Much of Fulham’s football was exuberant with their French attackers, Steed Malbranque and Marlet, often far too fast and elusive for a Blackburn defence which owed much to the acrobatics of their goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

Things might have been different if only Andrew Cole had scored for Blackburn after six minutes instead of hitting the left-hand post. Or if on 20 minutes, Fulham’s giant Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, had not brought off a spectacular one-handed save when Damien Duff took a left-wing corner and Henning Berg sent in a mighty drive which was turned on to the bar. As against all that, Fulham themselves hit a post later in the half when, after Malbranque had untypically swung at the ball and missed, Marlet coolly controlled it with his chest then sent an overhead shot against the upright.

Duff would have another shot saved at full-length by van der Sar, but it was Fulham now who sparkled and on 31 minutes, took the lead. Marlet surged his way into the Blackburn box, exchanging passes with Barry Hayles. When Marlet attempted to shoot, the ball struck Berg’s arm, the linesman waved his flag for a penalty, only for the ball to reach Hayles, who duly thumped it in.

Early in the second half, an inspired Malbranque made a chance which was wasted by his compatriot Sylvain Legwinski, but on 63 minutes, in went the second Fulham goal. Swift and incisive combination between
Match Stats Fulham Rovers
Goal attempts 13 10
On Target 8 6
Hit woodwork 1 2
Fouls 18 15
Offsides 4 1
Corners 4 2
Yellows 3 2
Reds 0 1
source: www.sports.com
Malbranque and Marlet saw the ball swept from left to right, while Blackburn’s defence could merely look on. When Marlet eventually crossed from the right, Malbranque banged the ball home. Only yet another gallant save by Friedel kept out a thundering shot by Marlet.

Short was then sent off near the close, to the anger of Souness. After the first five minutes, the Blackburn manager said: “I told my bench, somebody’s going to be sent off in this game.”

Fulham’s assistant manager, Christian Damiano, conceded: “We started badly and we were lucky in the first 20 minutes. The group reacted very well and we scored in good time.” Indeed they did.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Goma, Collins, Malbranque, Legwinski, Davis, Marlet (Willock 90), Hayles.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Harley, Saha, Ouaddou.

Booked: Malbranque(02 unsporting behaviour), Melville(03 foul), Marlet(90 foul).

Goals: Hayles 31, Malbranque 63.

Blackburn: Friedel, Tugay, Berg, Short, Curtis (Hignett 68), Taylor, Duff, Dunn, Jansen (Johansson 90), Cole, Neill (Gillespie 69).

Subs Not Used: Kelly, Hughes.

Sent Off: Short Short (90 foul). Booked: Neill(7 foul), Tugay(81 foul).

Att: 19,580 Ref: M Halsey (Welwyn Garden City).
Source S. Times by Brian Glanville
Since 1998
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