Saha keeps Fulham on hot streak

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Fulham's perfect 10 became an impeccable 11 straight wins to start the season at Craven Cottage last night, leaving Wolves, Preston and Sheffield Wednesday between them and a new Football League record.

Fulham's perfect 10 became an impeccable 11 straight wins to start the season at Craven Cottage last night, leaving Wolves, Preston and Sheffield Wednesday between them and a new Football League record.

Jean Tigana's team are fast becoming an irresistible force and Crystal Palace, though they fought gamely, are far from an immovable object.

Palace found the home side's slick passing and imaginative movement too much for them, as most teams in the First Division will this season. So it was an unhappy if sentimental return to the Cottage for the Palace manager Alan Smith, a Fulham supporter who was in charge of their youth academy before returning to Selhurst Park when Steve Coppell left after a series of embarrassing pre-season results.

Smith has found it hard to create immediate improvement and Palace remain in the bottom four after this fourth successive defeat, no team having scored fewer goals. However, their new owner Simon Jordan has made some money available and a new £2m Latvian winger, Andrejs Rubins, appeared for the second half, with compatriot Alex Kolinko, who cost £500,000, in goal.

Kolinko was at fault for the first goal, after nine minutes, by which time there had already been two chances at each end. It followed a free-kick conceded by Hayden Mullins. Fabrice Fernandes, the clever little midfielder, took the kick and Louis Saha headed his 12th goal in 11 games.

Driving rain made conditions treacherous for defenders and Fulham, used to playing the ball around, were undermined seven minutes later by the slippery surface after conceding a corner. Mikael Forssell's shot was blocked but Neil Ruddock drove in the rebound.

Another six minutes and the home side were in front again, once more from a free-kick. After a foul by Craig Harrison just inside the Fulham half, the ball was quickly transferred to Bjarne Goldbaek, who supplied Lee Clark for a smart finish.

Ruddock, injured while challenging for a corner just before the break, took no further part, allowing Rubins his chance as Smith switched from 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 for the second half.

The Latvian, operating wide on the left, soon demonstrated why Arsÿne Wenger called him the fastest player he had worked with, but saw little of the ball even when his team rallied towards the end. By that time, they were two goals down, substitute Barry Hayles setting up Clark for his second.

That was Fulham's 30th goal in nine home games this season and only a post prevented Fernandes striking the 31st.

Fulham (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan, Symons, Coleman, Trollope; Goldbaek (Davis, 67), J Collins, Clark (Lewis, 79), Fernandes; Boa Morte (Hayles, 55), Saha. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), W Collins.

Crystal Palace (3-5-2): Kolinko; A Morrison, Mullins, Ruddock (Rubins, h-t), Smith, Black (Gray, 71), Pollock, Rodger, Harrison; Forssell (Carlisle, 71), C Morrison. Substitutes not used: Thomson, Austin.

Referee: M Brandwood (Lichfield).

Comments