Fulham 3 Norwich City 0 match report: Brede Hangeland's return for FA Cup replay gives Fulham confidence for bigger battles ahead

Norwegian defender helps Cottages to victory - and earns his side a first clean sheet in eight games

craven cottage

There are greater rewards for Fulham than a trip to Bramall Lane 11 days from now. They have earned that, and may even win it too, after their very comfortable replay defeat of Norwich City. But Rene Meulensteen and Ray Wilkins will take further pleasures than that. A first clean sheet in eight games, the return of captain Brede Hangeland, and some enterprising attacking football which made three well-worked goals.

This might not be precisley the team that Meulensteen takes to Arsenal on Saturday but there should be far more confidence than there was when their last result was a 4-1 home defeat to Sunderland. In a tight, tense relegation battle, belief cannot be undervalued.

“Nothing positive comes out of losing,” said Meulensteen, delighted with the result, “so you should always try to go out and get the best possible result.”

That is the impression Fulham gave on the pitch even though they made nine changes from their weekend team - and Norwich City six. But the Fulham team had not obviously been weakened - because of how bad they had were on Saturday, and also because of the calibre and experience of players coming in.

 

There was Darren Bent, who put Fulham ahead in the first half, Giorgios Karagounis, who was excellent throughout, Maarten Stekelenburg in goal but most importantly of all captain and defensive lynch-pin Hangeland.

During the 10 weeks of Hangeland's glaring absence, Fulham conceded 41 goals in 15 games and looked certain to go down. But tonight he was back, alongside 21-year-old Dan Burn at centre-back, and Fulham kept their first clean sheet since 10 December last year.

“My biggest thing was the clean sheet,” Meulensteen said. “I keep saying, if we are getting clean sheets on board we will climb up the table because we have the quality to create chances.”

The return of Hangeland was crucial to that. “It was a big, big boost, he has done ever so well after surgery, trained very hard, and it was great to see him come through the 90 minutes very well.”

That new-found control at the back was briefly under threat, when Robert Snodgrass hit the bar after three minutes, but beyond that Fulham were very comfortable. They were sufficiently enterprising to create and eventually take chances. Steve Sidwell and Pajtim Kasami had long-term efforts saved before Darren Bent put them ahead.

Sascha Riether put Kasami in down the right, and he was too quick for Javi Garrido. Ashkan Dejagah dummied Kasami's cross and it fell to Bent, who showed that there are still few sharper than him at finishing in the box, easily beating Mark Bunn into the near bottom corner.

That was a smart move but the second was even better. Norwich were trying to push out but Karagounis and Kacaniklic's timing was perfect, the winger springing the high advancing line and darting into the inside right-channel. He crossed briskly and square to Dejagah, in space behind the defence, and the finish was simple.

Chris Hughton was not impressed. “Certainly the first two goals could have been avoided,  they were poor goals to concede,” he said. “It was not a question of heads dropping, it's a team not defending well enough. If that's the case you need to be scoring goals.”

Norwich's attacking threat was limited, though it did improve very slightly with Ricky van Wolfswinkel at the start of the second half. Within four minutes he had a shot charged down by Hangeland and there was, in relative terms, more threat and presence for the visitors.

It was a welcome change, for at least briefly restoring some competitiveness to a game which Fulham were coasting. But Norwich needed to take a chance and when the best one came along, Sebastian Bassong could only head straight at Maarten Stekelenburg.

The next good headed chance came at the other end, and won Fulham the game. Kasami held off two defenders and rolled the ball out to Riether, whose first-time cross was perfect. Sidwell, charging in at the far post, was too strong for Russell Martin and the finish was emphatic.

Luciano Becchio came on for a rare substitute appearance, while Fulham threw on youngsters Moussa Dembele, Lasse Vigen Christensen and Muamer Tankovic.

But both teams, by the final 20 minutes, were conserving energy for their more important league games on Saturday. Fulham's trip to Arsenal will be harder, but by the same token, Norwich's home game against Hull City will be more important.

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg; Riether, Hangeland, Burn, Richardson; Sidwell (Christensen, 84), Karagounis; Dejagah, Kasami, Kacaniklic (Tankovic, 87); Bent (Dembélé, 79).

Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Bunn; Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Garrido; Fox, Johnson; Redmond (Van Wolfswinkel, 45), Snodgrass, Josh Murphy; Elmander (Becchio, 69).

Referee Lee Mason.

Revised FA Cup fourth round draw

Friday 24 January

Arsenal v Coventry; Nottingham Forest v Preston

Saturday 25 January

Bournemouth v Liverpool, Bolton v Cardiff, Sunderland v Kidderminster, Southampton v Yeovil, Southend v Hull, Rochdale v Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan v Crystal Palace, Blackburn/Man City v Watford, Birmingham v Swansea, Huddersfield v Charlton/Oxford, Port Vale v Brighton, Stevenage v Everton

Sunday 26 January 

Sheffield United v Fulham, Chelsea v Stoke

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn