Fulham vs Wolverhampton Wanderers match report: Cottagers fail to keep the Wolves from the door as Bakary Sako shows great touch
Fulham 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1: West London side make it three defeats out of three in the Championship
Wednesday 20 August 2014
Wolverhampton Wanderers had to be relegated twice before they rediscovered what it meant to be a team. Fulham, and their owner Shahid Khan, will have watched this defeat at Craven Cottage hoping that the same is not true for them.
This was Fulham's third Championship game of the season and their third defeat. To call Felix Magath's attempts to build a team here a 'work in progress' would risk implying that they are moving in the right direction. The fans, clearly, have had enough, judging by the 'Felix out' chants at the final whistle. Magath insisted that Khan is patient - “he knows it might be a difficult period in the beginning of the season” - but precisely how much time he has is anyone's guess.
The table barely matters in August but it is still true that only goal difference is keeping Fulham off the bottom. Had Nouha Dicko scored his added-time penalty, then they would have replaced Blackpool in 24th.
Fulham desperately need a first win but their next few league games - Derby County, Cardiff City, Reading and Nottingham Forest - will all be difficult, especially if they play as aimlessly as they have done in their three games so far.
Fulham have the resources to have a good season - they fielded an £11m striker and a recent footballer of the year here - but quality is no guarantee at this level. Wolves found that, two years ago, when they dropped into this division with no real plan of how to get out, and ending up leaving by the wrong door.
That is what Wolves needed, what it took to get Kenny Jackett in, to get rid of complacent overpaid players, and to build a team that won League One. Judging by this performance, that was controlled, comfortable and confident, deserving of a heavier scoreline but not needing one, they will give the Championship a good shot too.
“I thought we played very well and negated Fulham, there was a hunger and a desire out there,” said Jackett, who can aim as high as he wants this season. “You aspire to have a settled side.”
That is the key point, that these two teams are at different stages of development. Wolves are settled, fielding 10 regulars from last year. Fulham are in flux, starting just one. Scott Parker is a good player but his captain's role is proving too broad even for his shoulders; cohering five youngsters and five new signings around him into a real team.
Fulham had the support of a vocal crowd, but there was too much passion and not enough precision about their play. Cauley Woodrow and Ross McCormack, the teenager and the £11million man, made an unlikely partnership who struggled to combine effectively.
The difference from Wolves was obvious. This is a team who know their own game, and they were happy to sit back, defend their own box and attack on the break. Kevin McDonald ran the midfield, and when he picked out Dave Edwards' run, the shot flew across the face of goal.
Fulham could not keep up with Wolves' movement, Sean Kavanagh and Mark Fotheringham were booked, and it was no surprise at all when, 15 minutes in, the visitors took the lead with a goal whose imagination and execution was far beyond anything Fulham could muster. Scott Golbourne rolled a low corner across from the left, Edwards dummied it and Bakary Sako, unmarked in the box, smacked it in.
Once ahead, Wolves were happy to spend the rest of the half defending Fulham's rather snatched attacks. Centre-backs Richard Stearman and Danny Batth faced up to everything, blocking shots from Parker, Konstantinos Stafylidis and McCormack. Fulham had no way through and it was Wolves who should have scored before the break, Batth heading Sako's free-kick just wide.
Fulham needed a change and so, six minutes after the re-start, Magath threw on Moussa Dembele for Mark Fotheringham. With his first touch, Dembele produced more excitement and threat than Fotheringham - booking aside - did in 50 minutes, bursting through on goal and forcing Carl Ikeme into a sharp save down low to his right.
It was almost 4-2-4 for Fulham, with Roberts, McCormack, Woodrow and Dembele all attacking, with consequences at both ends. Wolves right-back Matt Doherty was far too free at the far-post, and should have headed in McDonald's delicate cross, before McCormack found space on the edge of the box and shot just over the bar.
There was almost enough encouragement for the home fans, with a few free-kicks fizzing wide, but nothing especially dangerous as the second half ticked away. Wolves knew they could sit back, wait and break. Nouha Dicko won an added-time penalty, only for Jesse Joronen to save from Bakary Sako. It was the highlight of Fulham's evening.
Fulham (4-4-1-1) Joronen; Hoogland, Bodurov, Burgess, Kavanagh (Williams 85); Roberts, Parker, Fotheringham (Dembele 50), Stafylidis; McCormack; Woodrow (Rodallega 81).
Wolves (4-2-3-1) Ikeme; Doherty, Batth, Stearman, Golbourne; McDonald, Evans; Van La Parra (Jacobs, 86), Edwards, Sako; Dicko.
Referee J Linington (Isle of Wight).
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