Coleman fumes as Blackburn teach Fulham lesson in desire

Fulham 0 - Blackburn Rovers 2
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The Independent Football

The game had been over for an hour and Chris Coleman was still seething. He spoke harshly about faint hearts, lack of commitment, not playing for one another and arrogance. "My guys had better believe they are in a dogfight, start fighting like Blackburn, because it's going to be a long, hard season," Coleman said.

The game had been over for an hour and Chris Coleman was still seething. He spoke harshly about faint hearts, lack of commitment, not playing for one another and arrogance. "My guys had better believe they are in a dogfight, start fighting like Blackburn, because it's going to be a long, hard season," Coleman said.

Jeered off at half-time and at the end, Fulham were woeful, sloppy in defence, almost toothless in attack, a team without coherent purpose. Some way to celebrate their 125th anniversary. "The first 45 minutes were the worst I can remember since I've been in charge," Coleman added. "If you've got players on the pitch who aren't brave enough to take responsibility, you get results like that."

It was Coleman's intention to freshen things up by bringing in two players when the January transfer window opens, but on the evidence of Saturday's 2-0 defeat by Blackburn, he feels he may need four to avoid the relegation places. "You need the desire to fight for the ball when things aren't going right for you, and I'm not getting that. We're not doing the horrible bits at the minute. We're not even fighting for ourselves.

"My team didn't look interested, to be honest. They danced about, not competing, and we made them look a good team. Too many of them think they can just show up. I don't think they realise the position we are in. We have lost six games out of eight now. Their body language was atrocious. So-called ball players didn't want the ball. Not enough of my players are angry or disappointed enough when we lose. They had better start fighting like Blackburn."

Blackburn gave everything, showing enough spirit and technical ability to climb off the bottom, their defence sound, their midfield solid, their attacks imaginative with Paul Dickov a constant threat to Fulham's inexperienced back line. "My only criticism of our performance was that we didn't win by more," Blackburn's manager Mark Hughes said. "We haven't been beaten in five games. That's not the form of a team struggling."

There was an early warning for Fulham when Dickov went close and after only 10 minutes they fell behind when poor marking at a throw-in gifted possession to Steven Reid, whose low centre was neatly turned in by Paul Gallagher at the near post.

Shortly afterwards, Tomasz Radzinski squandered Fulham's only chance of the first half when he was put through by Papa Bouba Diop in what looked to be an offside position, but pulled his low shot wide. From then on Blackburn grew in confidence, controlling the midfield to the frustration of Fulham's playmaker Steed Malbranque, who is struggling for form and looked out of place on the right.

Coleman's efforts to raise his team during the interval - "I could have changed every one of them" - were to no avail. Fulham were still all flicks and flurries, their attempts to play one-touch football easy prey for Blackburn's combative midfield, in which Tugay was outstanding. Dickov threatened and Gallagher shot just wide before Brad Friedel made a fine save from Andrew Cole in the 65th minute, turning the ball away at full stretch when the Fulham captain muscled his way past Blackburn's centre-backs.

This raised the spirits of Fulham's supporters, but Blackburn wrapped it up in the 77th minute. Fulham's failure to retain possession cost them again when Zesh Rehman lost the ball to wrong-foot his defence. Zat Knight scooped the ball away with his hand, earning a second yellow card and conceding the penalty, which Dickov put past Edwin Van der Sar, who had just replaced Mark Crossley, troubled by a groin strain.

At this stage last season Fulham were comfortably placed in the Premiership, well on course to achieve survival. This time things are looking grim. Chelsea in the League Cup tomorrow? "I'd take three points at Norwich next week over a place in the semi-finals," Coleman said.

Goals: Gallagher (10) 0-1; Dickov (pen 77) 0-2.

Fulham (4-5-1): Crossley (Van der Sar, 73); Volz, Knight, Rehman, Bocanegra; Malbranque, Legwinski (McBride, 66), Diop, Pembridge, Radzinski; Cole. Substitutes not used: Hammond, Pearce, Rosenior.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Short, Johansson (Matteo, 89); Reid, Tugay, Ferguson, Emerton; Gallagher (Thompson, 83), Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman, Flitcroft, Pederson.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Fulham: Knight. Blackburn: Ferguson.

Sent off: Fulham: Knight (76).

Man of the match: Dickov.

Attendance: 19,103.

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