Classy Dimitar Berbatov makes himself feel at home

Fulham 3 West Bromwich Albion 0

When Fulham signed Dimitar Berbatov on the final day of the summer transfer window, some fans must have thought that the languid Bulgarian represented a poor replacement for Clint Dempsey, who is two years younger and a lot more dynamic. In the long term they may be proved right, but yesterday it looked a more than fair exchange.

Not only did Berbatov score twice on his home debut, with a superb curling effort and a clinical penalty, but he was also spotted winning challenges in midfield, executing a sliding challenge to dispossess an opponent, and heading away a corner-kick.

"He was at the back, he was in midfield, he was up front, he scored a good goal," Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, said. "I think he did more than he ever did in his life before. Dimitar wanted to give us this result. If he's fit, he will hopefully do what Clint Dempsey did for us."

It helped that West Bromwich Albion contributed to their own downfall. They were defending an unbeaten record and had an outside chance of finishing the match as Premier League leaders if they had won, but they played most of this game with 10 men after the dismissal of Peter Odemwingie for a kick at Sascha Riether.

They had begun confidently. James Morrison fired in an early range-finder that Mark Schwarzer was forced to flick over the bar, while Shane Long was a constant irritant to the home defence.

Albion's own rearguard had an easy time as Fulham's crosses drifted harmlessly across goal with neither Berbatov nor Hugo Rodallega able to anticipate them.

But as Berbatov warmed up and his passes found their targets, the defenders began to have more to think about. Billy Jones, an attack-minded right-back, was suddenly finding Alexander Kacaniklic a handful and a firm tackle by Jonas Olsson on Rodallega spared his blushes after he had allowed the Swedish winger to cross.

But there was no reprieve after 32 minutes when Kacaniklic turned Jones inside out down the left before passing to Berbatov, 15 yards out. The Bulgarian took a touch, looked up and swerved the ball round Ben Foster. Marc-Antoine Fortuné gave Jones a consoling pat, which took less effort than helping him out with Kacaniklic.

It was only the second goal West Brom had conceded this season, and things rapidly went downhill for the visitors with the departure of Odemwingie after 38 minutes. Dispossessed by Riether, he flicked out a boot at the right- back, and when that barely made contact, he kicked out viciously, with the ball nowhere.

"We're all human, we all have emotions," the West Brom manager Steve Clarke said. "He felt it was a free-kick to us and the red mist came down. It certainly didn't help but we gave Fulham too much space."

Perhaps the sensible thing at that stage would have been to see out the half and re-group. Jones, though, seemed to have other ideas. He launched a swashbuckling run into the Fulham penalty area, but it ended with the ball running harmlessly through to Schwarzer, and it may be that the long sprint back to his position had tired him out – because he got nowhere near the ball as he attempted to dispossess Kacaniklic in the penalty area in the 45th minute. It was the clearest of penalties and Berbatov planted the ball calmly past Foster.

West Brom tried to get back into the game, and substitutes Romelu Lukaku and Chris Brunt both forced saves from Schwarzer, but Fulham were making the most of the extra space. Damien Duff and Steve Sidwell both had shots saved by Foster, one of which was deflected off Berbatov, who would surely have claimed a hat-trick if it had gone in. Eventually Fulham scored a third, Sidwell blasting home the rebound after Rodallega's header had hit the woodwork.

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Reither, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff (Smith, 90), Sidwell, Baird, Kakaniklic (Kasami, 84); Berbatov, Rodalegga.

West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob (Rosenberg, 76); Odemwingie, Morrison, Fortune (Lukaku, h-t); Long (Brunt, h-t).

Referee: Roger East.

Man of the match: Berbatov (Fulham)

Match rating: 6/10

Half-time: 2-0 Att: 25,691

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions