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West Brom 1-1 Fulham Prem 27 1314 The Guardian

last updated Sunday 23rd February 2014, 8:55 PM

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Peter Lansley at The Guardian
West Brom (0) 1 Fulham (1) 1

Felix Magath, notwithstanding a reputation as the harshest taskmaster in European football, refused to attach any blame to Maarten Stekelenburg after the latest new Fulham manager's perfect start in English football was spoiled by his goalkeeper's failure to keep out Matej Vydra's late equaliser.

Instead, the first German to manage in the Barclays Premier League expressed an increased conviction that he can steer Fulham to safety and so enhance the other aspect of his reputation in his homeland as the master of the great escape.

Fulham, leading through Ashkan Dejagah's rare goal, looked on course for their first win since New Year's Day until Stekelenburg got only one hand to Vydra's shot on the turn, following Victor Anichebe's cross after a second-half assault that merited West Bromwich Albion their point, and turned to see it roll over the line before he could scoop the ball away.

So Fulham remain bottom of the table after their latest managerial change, but Magath has seen enough to convince him that they will avoid relegation. "I was sure before the game that we would stay up," he said, "and I'm sure after the game. We were close to winning the game and the next game we will win."

Magath was unabashed when he was reminded that Chelsea are the visitors to Craven Cottage next week. Then again, he took no umbrage when it was suggested that a German would have appreciated goalline technology being introduced before now; but any reference to the 1966 World Cup final appeared to be lost in translation. "I have always wondered why everyone does not have goalline technology," he said. "I think it would have been terrible if the referee does not see the ball was over the line."

Magath, rather than dispatching Stekelenburg on any medicine-ball runs through the countryside today, absolved his Dutch goalkeeper of any responsibility for the late equaliser. "He was [playing] very well," he said. "The shot was only from a few metres out. It can happen. I don't see the goalkeeper is at fault."

Indeed, Pepe Mel, the West Brom manager still seeking his first win in English football after six matches, made Stekelenburg his man of the match, and the saves made from Thievy Bifouma on a breakaway in the first half, and from Chris Brunt in added time, offered credence to such a verdict.

For the fourth consecutive home game, West Brom have come from behind to salvage a point, as belatedly they found their rhythm. The home team dominated the second half, thanks to Brunt's promptings from a deeper central midfield role, Victor Anichebe's greater muscle as the attacking fulcrum and Morgan Amalfitano's excellent service from right-back.

The West Brom head coach admits he is at a loss to explain why his players, who stay a point above the relegation zone despite a run of one win in 18 games, are capable of such barnstorming second halves after looking so lacklustre in opening periods.

Yet again at The Hawthorns they have rallied from behind to stay unbeaten against Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea and now Fulham. "We should have more points but in the first half, my team is too open," he said. "At half-time I spoke with my players and we went from having two strikers to 4-3-3 and it was better for us. All the pitches are no good at the moment and the short pass is a problem.

"All the games here have been the same. Everton? Good second half, after we changed things. Liverpool, Chelsea, the same, and today. For me, the best player on the pitch is the Fulham goalkeeper."

Lewis Holtby was the creative catalyst for Fulham who looked set to continue the good form they had shown in drawing with Manchester United and losing narrowly to Liverpool in what turned out to be the end of René Meulensteen's short reign.

With Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell restored together in the midfield engine room, Holtby shot just wide after playing a one-two with the recalled Hugo Rodallega and Fulham went ahead through another player to have served under Magath before.

Dejagah, formerly at Wolfsburg, was the beneficiary of Albion's openness when Kieran Richardson broke away down the left wing and crossed to where Holtby and Rodallega both missed the ball only for the Iranian still to have the time and space to control and shoot beyond - and, it has to be said, under - Ben Foster. But the England player's misjudgement was not the worst goalkeeping mistake of the day.

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