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The Arizonan

Match Report - Fulham 0 Birmingham 0

last updated Saturday 13th August 2005, 6:59 PM
Brian McBride
Brian McBride unlucky to have
his goal ruled offside

Fulham kicked off their Barclays Premiership campaign with a hugely promising display which will have left manager Chris Coleman wondering how his side failed to finish with all three points.

They dominated from start to finish, bristling with ambition as they repeatedly tore Birmingham's defence to shreds and dealing easily with what was thrown at them by the toothless Blues.

But for all their invention, some wayward finishing meant they were unable to bury the raft of chances they created and claim the victory their superiority so clearly deserved.

With the new campaign just one match old it is a little early to suggest Fulham might repeat their heroics of two years ago but a few more performances like today's and last season's relegation concerns will become a distant memory.

Claus Jensen pulled the strings expertly in midfield while his namesake and fellow Denmark international Niclas Jensen - a summer signing from Borussia Dortmund - did a good job shackling Jermaine Pennant.

Fulham sparkled in attack with Steed Malbranque, a failed transfer target for Manchester City, and Luis Boa Morte providing a threat down the flanks while striker Brian McBride offered a dangerous physical presence in the box.

Boa Morte will have been particularly disappointed not to finish on the winning side after being unveiled as the new club skipper before kick-off in a move which would suggest Newcastle's efforts to sign him have been foiled.

Birmingham enjoyed the odd purple patch but were generally very disappointing as they frequently found themselves overrun in midfield where the on-loan Nicky Butt, making his debut, was anonymous.

They started brightly, however, when a foul by Zat Knight on Emile Heskey gave Birmingham the first chance with a free-kick five yards outside the area but Jermaine Pennant lofted it wide.

Tomasz Radzinski - paired alongside Brian McBride up-front as Coleman persisted with the 4-4-2 formation he used towards the end of last season - was busy early on, linking with Claus Jensen and Boa Morte down the left.

A ball trickled into his path after a kind deflection off Claus Jensen, offering the Canadian international the opportunity to turn and shoot but he blazed off-target from eight yards.

Birmingham made several raids deep into Fulham's half but offered little around the box - in contrast to the home side who threatened again when Boa Morte's header teed up McBride but the USA striker over-cooked his shot.

Boa Morte floated a 20th-minute cross to Radzinski at the far post but his header was easily collected by Maik Taylor and then Moritz Volz dithered when he should have pulled the trigger as Fulham continued to dominate.

Blues midfielder Julian Gray was put into space when timely intervention from Volz prevented him from taking the shot he wanted and shortly after Heskey headed a Pennant free-kick across the face of goal - but Tony Warner was waiting.

A wild effort from Malbranque ensured Fulham continued to search for the opener their superiority deserved before the Frenchman saw a far more impressive goalbound shot blocked by Heskey.

Match Stats Fulham Birm
Goals 0 0
Possession 50% 50%
Goal attempts 10 5
On Target 4 2
Corners 6 6
Off-sides 2 6
Penalty 0 0
Fouls 13 13
Yellows 1 2
Reds 0 0
source: skysport/Opta sports data

Claus Jensen, who missed long spells of last season through injury, was involved in most of Fulham's attacking moves and to good effect, although occasionally his distribution was wayward.

Birmingham were caught on the counter in the 45th minute, allowing Malbranque to set up McBride who unselfishly fed Boa Morte, but Taylor made a fine save. The ball rebounded to Boa Morte but his follow-up effort struck the bar.

Radzinski was replaced by Collins John at half-time and the Dutch striker appeared to have been presented with a great opportunity to end the stalemate only to be ruled offside by the linesman.

Warner was forced to move off his line as Fulham were caught on the hop following one foray but the on-loan Cardiff stopper - starting after Mark Crossley had failed to recover from a knee injury - reacted quickly with Heskey lurking.

Coleman's men had temporarily lost control with Birmingham getting forward with increasing regularity and they nearly took the lead through a piece of magic from Gray.

The 25-year-old midfielder skipped past Sylvain Legwinski and then Knight on his run into the heart of the home defence but his eventual shot drifted across the face goal, ending a fine piece of individual skill.

Fulham thought they had broken the deadlock in the 64th minute when McBride nodded home an inch-perfect cross from Boa Morte but the linesman ruled offside in what replays showed to be an extremely close call.

The ineffective Walter Pandiani was replaced by Mikael Forssell but Fulham continued to attack with Boa Morte being denied by a desperate block from Birmingham's defence.

Forssell and Clinton Morrison forced saves from Warner as the Blues finished strongly but Steve Bruce will not bemoan their failure to capitalise given his side were lucky to escape with a point.

Fulham Warner, Volz, Rehman, Knight, Niclas Jensen, Malbranque, Legwinski (Elrich 90), Claus Jensen, Boa Morte, McBride, Radzinski (John 45).

Subs Not Used: Helguson, Batista, Leacock.

Booked: Legwinski (35,f).

Birmingham Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Upson, Cunningham, Clapham, Pennant, Butt, Clemence, Gray, Heskey (Morrison 87), Pandiani (Forssell 71).

Subs Not Used: Izzet, Lazaridis, Vaesen.

Booked: Clemence, Upson.

Att: 16,550

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).

Source Sporting Life
Since 1998
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