Boa Morte's skill worries Bolton to death

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The Independent Online

It is difficult to conceive a Premier League next season that does not include Fulham. Only the acrobatics of Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Bolton goalkeeper, and slack finishing kept the scoreline respectable as Bolton, undefeated before yesterday, were made to look ordinary. That both goals were scored by Luis Boa Morte, usually a substitute but deputising for the injured top scorer Louis Saha, suggests there is a depth of quality in Jean Tigana's squad which will endure the coming months.

It is difficult to conceive a Premier League next season that does not include Fulham. Only the acrobatics of Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Bolton goalkeeper, and slack finishing kept the scoreline respectable as Bolton, undefeated before yesterday, were made to look ordinary. That both goals were scored by Luis Boa Morte, usually a substitute but deputising for the injured top scorer Louis Saha, suggests there is a depth of quality in Jean Tigana's squad which will endure the coming months.

Fulham's flying start to the campaign was mirrored by the opening moments of this fixture when a fluffed clearance by Anthony Barness gave Lee Clark a shooting chance. The strike ricocheted off Mark Fish, a defender, and fell kindly for the Portuguese, who wriggled into the box and tapped home in under 15 seconds.

Bolton, clearly, had failed to learn from their mistake of last week when they conceded to Blackburn within 50. On that day, they rescued a deserved point. Yesterday, it might have been an embarrassment. John Collins, who missed a late chance to finish an exquisite move for the visitors, said: "We passed well, moved well and created plenty of chances. Everybody played their part and looked very comfortable on the ball. We are also very fit, and teams can only chase us around for so long. The only fault with the performance was that we didn't score enough goals." Indeed, Per Frandsen might have made a mockery of the relative merits of the sides and levelled in the closing moments with a powerful volley but, from the goalkeeper Maik Taylor's throw, Boa Morte darted down the left and squeezed the clincher beyond Jaaskelainen at the second attempt.

It was no less than Fulham deserved, and the final scoreline barely recognised their superiority. While the passing was incisive and accurate and confidence rightly high, the swiftness of movement off the ball impressed most. Fulham fizzed with energy, the formation was fluid with players dropping in and out of their assigned positions and the rigidity of Bolton's 4-4-2 approach was left looking flat-footed.

That is not to say the home side lacked endeavour, but, against the tempered flair of Fabrice Fernandes and Boa Morte, and the resilience of the midfield anchors Collins and Clark, Bolton saw so little of the ball their attacks were fleeting and rarely threatening.

A torrential downpour just before the break left standing water on the pitch and, briefly, the rhythm of Fulham's play was disrupted while Bolton's more direct style appeared more suited to the conditions.

Adaptability, however, is central to the Fulham ethos and, once they were accustomed to the unpredictability of the ball's movement on the surface, the visitors' control was re-emphasised. Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, praised Jean Tigana's side. "They were fantastic," he said, "and on that performance I would have to say we were watching the champions."

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