Coleman's plan sinks inconsistent Blackburn

Blackburn Rovers 0 Fulham 2
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The Independent Football

In a Premiership brimming with talented yet unpredictable teams, Blackburn Rovers have cornered the market.

As an away point at Stamford Bridge, home defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool and an opening-day thrashing of hapless Wolverhampton Wanderers indicate, Rovers are dangerous to discount but impossible to rely on.

So when Fulham - themselves hardly a model of consistency - arrived at Ewood Park yesterday, anything seemed possible.

Sure enough, Rovers fell behind after just five minutes and conceded a decisive second goal early on in the second half.

That maintained their average of conceding goals at the rate of two a game and - just as worryingly for Graeme Souness, their manager - they rarely threatened to break down a compact and well organised Fulham who were comfortable for the most part and always a threat on the break.

This was Rovers' third home defeat in only four games this season and the team were understandably booed off at the end by those few who had stayed that long.

"Once we'd gifted them an early goal it was always going to be difficult," Souness said. "We have to stop making defensive errors but I'm not going to name individuals because I believe in winning and losing as a team."

In his side's first attack, Steed Malbranque wandered largely unchallenged to the by-line before setting up an unmarked Luis Boa Morte to tap in his third goal this season.

After a disappointing Uefa Cup defeat in Turkey, Souness had welcomed back Garry Flitcroft and Barry Ferguson to the heart of midfield.

But for long periods yesterday, the pair appeared to duplicate each other's roles in front of the back four when one or other would surely have been more profitably employed augmenting the attack, and it came as little surprise when the Scotland captain was replaced by Tugay on the hour.

Thankfully the game had become stretched by then as Blackburn occasionally managed to impose their passing game and involve Matt Jansen and Andy Cole.

But as they did so, space appeared behind and Louis Saha doubled Fulham's advantage, beating Lorenzo Amoruso to a long ball, then checking back, cutting inside and finally curling a low shot past the goalkeeper, Brad Friedel.

Blackburn did then improve but far too many of their attacking moves ended in anti-climax, with Cole's lob that rebounded off the crossbar summing up his and Blackburn's miserable afternoon.

"It was obvious what we set out to do," Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, said. "We frustrated them and it worked perfectly. We can take a lot of positives from restricting a top-six side like Blackburn to a minimum of chances."

Goals: Boa Morte (5) 0-1; Saha (57) 0-2.

Blackburn Rovers: (4-4-2) Friedel 5; Babbel 4 (Johansson 5, 28), Taylor 5, Amoruso 4, Gresko 5 (Grabbi 3, 59); Emerton 4, Flitcroft 4, Ferguson 4 (Tugay 5, 59), Thompson 5; Jansen 3, Cole 4. Substitutes not used: Kelly (gk), Yorke.

Fulham: (4-5-1) Van der Sar 6; Volz 4 (Leacock 5, 46), Knight 7, Goma 7, Bonnissel 5; Malbranque 6, Pembridge 5, Inamoto 5, Clark 6, Boa Morte 6 (Buari, 85); Saha 7. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Melville, Djetou.

Referee: M Messias (South Yorkshire) 6.

Bookings: Blackburn Rovers: Tugay. Fulham: Knight, Boa Morte.

Man of the match: Goma (Fulham).

Attendance: 21,985.