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West Brom 1-1 Fulham Prem 27 1314 Daily Telegraph

last updated Sunday 23rd February 2014, 9:06 PM
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John Percy at Daily Telegraph

West Brom (0) 1 Fulham (1) 1

For a manager who has been nicknamed 'The Torturer', this was a painful end to Felix Magath's first experience of the Premier League.

Maarten Stekelenburg can expect punishment by medicine balls after his inexplicable error deprived Magath of a victory at the Hawthorns but there were encouraging signs for the German ahead of his survival mission.

Fulham remain bottom after three points slipped through the fingers of their goalkeeper, with 'Hawkeye' confirming Matej Vydra's shot had crossed the line, in what was a crash course in English football for the club's third manager of a chaotic season.

They had led through Ashkan Dejagah's 28th minute goal and the results of Magath's first week on the training ground were evident in an energetic first-half performance, with his players constantly closing down and pressing their opponents into mistakes.

However, West Bromwich Albion's dominance in the second period, becoming a worrying trademark under new head coach Pepe Mel, was finally rewarded through Vydra four minutes from time in a breathless finish. With only one win in 18 games Albion are also in trouble and Mel's tenure is yet to spark any real optimism.

Fulham are four points from safety but Magath remains optimistic he can guide them above the dotted line. "I was sure we would stay up before the game and I'm sure after the game," he said.

"The players are disappointed, sure, because we were so close to the first three points. We showed a lot of fight and that is what I want my team to do.

"I crossed the fingers but that is not enough. We have to play 90 minutes and try to make no faults. We made too many faults in the second half.

"We have had only a few days together. You cannot change many things. We will win the next game - it's only against Chelsea."

Magath has established a fearsome reputation in Germany, similar to an unpopular headmaster, a tracksuited tyrant whose crimes include allegedly hiding water bottles from his players after a lung-busting running session.

His nicknames are extensive - 'Saddam' is another of the more evocative, and printable, ones. But away from all the horror stories about his tough training methods, Fulham have clearly been lifted by his presence.

Chewing gum furiously, he sat impassively through the first half with his hands in his coat pockets as Fulham impressed in an industrious 45 minutes.

Fulham squandered early chances but did take the lead, deservedly, after Dejagah's low shot arrowed through a crowd of players, leaving Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster unsighted to nestle in the corner.

The tension was building, with Mel involved in a frank exchange with captain Chris Brunt as he barked out instructions from his technical area.

Fulham could have had a second before half-time but Foster tipped over Hugo Rodallega's long-range effort.

Albion had been dreadful but were vastly improved in the second period, Brunt and James Morrison forcing saves from Stekelenburg.

Magath introduced £12million signing Konstantinos Mitroglou on the hour but it was Fulham's defenders who were far busier. With Heitinga and Brede Hangeland outstanding, Fulham were under relentless pressure but defended as if they feared conceding a goal would result in punishment.

The home team's bombardment finally paid off when Stekelenburg spilt Vydra's shot and the ball squirmed over the line. Hopes of a first clean sheet in the league since December 8 ruined.

Stekelenburg repaired his reputation in the final minutes with a fine save from Brunt but there was a nagging suspicion that one point will not be enough for either team.

Mel is still yet to win in six games and these are increasingly fraught times. He said: "The players are working very hard to win these points but, for everyone's mentality, we need to win a match.

"It's still February. There are still three months left. It's important we stay calm, continue to work hard and look forward with optimism."

West Brom (4-2-3-1) Foster 6; Jones 6 (Anichebe 44 8), McAuley 7, Olsson 6, Ridgewell 6; Mulumbu 6, Morrison 6; Amalfitano 5, Berahino 5 (Vydra 75), Brunt 7; Thievy 5 (Gera 45 6).
Subs Sinclair, Myhill, Dorrans, Dawson.

Booked McAuley, Olsson, Brunt.

Fulham (4-2-3-1) Stekelenburg 7, Riether 7, Heitinga 8, Hangeland 8, Amorebieta 6 (Riise 52 7), Sidwell 7, Parker 7; Dejagah 7, Holtby 7, Richardson 7 (Burn 70), Rodallega 6 (Mitroglou 61 5).
Subs Kvist, Kasami, Stockdale, Tankovic.

Booked Riether, Heitinga, Parker.

Referee Mike Dean (Cheshire)

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