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Fulham start flowing - S.Telegraph

last updated Sunday 10th February 2002, 5:37 PM
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Fulham (1) 2 Blackburn (0) 0

Fulham continued Worthington Cup finalists Blackburn's alarming Premiership slump right into the relegation zone.

Blackburn will rue their bad luck. They twice hit the woodwork and twice conceded goals after dominating play. But 10 defeats in 12 League games have left the First Division trap door gaping wide.

Their forgettable day was made even worse close to the final whistle when Craig Short was dismissed for using an elbow.

Fulham's victory enhanced their outside hopes of a place in Europe next season. Ironically their last game in May is away to Blackburn. That match may yet decide the top-flight future of Graeme Souness's side.

Fulham welcomed back John Collins and Sean Davis after injury while manager Jean Tigana preferred Rufus Brevett to Jon Harley in defence. Louis Saha dropped to the bench.

Blackburn were able to welcome back David Dunn after his injury lay-off but captain Garry Flitcroft was suspended. Souness reinstated Henning Berg, Craig Short and John Curtis in defence.

Rovers have a date in the Worthington Cup final in a fortnight's time but they arrived at Craven Cottage with their Premiership future in jeopardy, having lost nine of their previous 11 league games.

Luck was against them as early as the fourth minute when Andy Cole struck a post after being sent clear by Dunn, the ball rebounding to Edwin van der Sar.

Fulham did the double over Blackburn last season on their way to becoming champions of Division One and pushing Rovers into second place. But the visitors opened as the dominant force, Cole heading over from Dunn's free-kick.

That Blackburn had lost their last three league games was difficult to credit as the woodwork again denied them. This time Berg met Damien Duff's cross on the volley but Van der Sar touched it on to the crossbar.

The woodwork seemed intent on evening matters out. Fulham's goal-shy attack had scarcely featured until Steve Marlet executed an overhead special, only to see it come back off a post.

And on the half-hour Fulham scored. Marlet dispossessed Dunn and ran half the length of the pitch, combining with Barry Hayles. Marlet's cross looked to be handled by Berg but Hayles was alert to playing the advantage and hooked the ball past Brad Friedel for his 10th goal of the season.
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

With Fulham in the ascendancy Friedel kept Rovers in the game with a one-handed save from Steed Malbranque's direct free-kick.

The relegation places were beckoning for Blackburn if they could not turn around their fortunes. Dunn's flying header from Duff's cross flashed wide before Dunn's control let him down in an interchange with Cole.

And in a repeat of the first half pattern Blackburn fell further behind after dominating play. In a move that developed from a Blackburn free-kick Fulham flowed forward before Malbranque volleyed in Marlet's cross.

Freidel might have done better with a shot straight at him, but he did well to keep out Marlet's effort soon after. But it scarcely mattered and Blackburn's misery was complete with the dismissal of Short for elbowing Marlet.

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. Telegraph by Michael Staniforth
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