Davis adds gloss to colour parade

Fulham 2 Charlton Athletic 0

A game almost as colourful as the frighteningly garish shirt sported by Mohamed Al Fayed. Never mind the sunshine, his attire alone brought out the shades. But the Fulham chairman witnessed an impressive victory, against fiercely competitive opponents, which drew his team level on points with Charlton and just about ended the latter's diminishing hopes of qualifying for the Champions' League even if their manager, Alan Curbishley, was raging against such suggestions afterwards.

A game almost as colourful as the frighteningly garish shirt sported by Mohamed Al Fayed. Never mind the sunshine, his attire alone brought out the shades. But the Fulham chairman witnessed an impressive victory, against fiercely competitive opponents, which drew his team level on points with Charlton and just about ended the latter's diminishing hopes of qualifying for the Champions' League even if their manager, Alan Curbishley, was raging against such suggestions afterwards.

It was not all he raged about. Curbishley tore into the sloppy performance of referee Matt Messias and the state of the "appalling" Loftus Road pitch. In both cases he was not wrong. At least it will be the last time his side play Fulham there. Next season it's back to Craven Cottage, of course. "Thank God," said Curbishley.

He probably had a few more blasphemies for Messias. "It was a big game today," he said. "and he was poor. I don't think he was ever going to give us anything. I cannot quite believe we have lost."

Curbishley's main complaint was over two rejected penalty appeals. For the first, in particular, when Martin Djetou handled a Luke Young cross, his case was strong. Curbishley, who implied his report on the referee would be brutal, also revealed that he had been telephoned by Bolton's manager, Sam Allardyce - no shrinking violet - and castigated for being "too nice" to referees. He appears to have taken the advice on board.

His opposite number, Chris Coleman, has also being doling out advice of late. He dropped his two young hopefuls Sean Davis and Zat Knight for breaking a pre-match curfew before the encounter with Blackburn Rovers. The former came back, as a half-time substitute, to score a spectacular volley from distance to seal the match.

"They overstepped the mark, they got their punishment," Coleman said. "But he [Davis] shut me up and I'm glad. You could definitely see he was trying to prove a point." And he did so by securing the points, although it was the performances of Fulham's goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, and the aggressively speedy Luis Boa Morte which caught the eye.

Inside the first 10 seconds the pace of Fulham's strikers was causing alarm. Collins John almost burst through, and then Boa Morte shot narrowly over from distance. In between, Van der Sar made a terrific double save from Claus Jensen before the pitch defeated Hermann Hreidarsson, the ball bouncing wildly over his foot, and Boa Morte sprinted away. He was upended by Dean Kiely and Steed Malbranque calmly scored the penalty. The Frenchman almost added a second after turning inside, but was brilliantly blocked by Kiely.

Charlton then had their two penalty appeals turned down - the second when Jason Euell, restored as a striker, was grappled by Djetou. It was less convincing than the handball. But the visitors appeared to be wresting further control with shots by Graham Stuart and Jensen, while Van der Sar robbed Carlton Cole.

In the second half it was Boa Morte's turn to steal the ball inside Charlton's half, and he fed Davis, who turned a poor first touch, courtesy of the hard pitch, to his advantage to volley right-footed beyond Kiely from 25 yards. Davis, energised, forced another fine stop from Kiely before Euell, spiky throughout, should have pulled a goal back. But his free header, from a corner, thumped woefully wide.

It was a bad miss. As was another by Jonathan Fortune, who was too deliberate with a volley from six yards. Nevertheless Van der Sar's save was instinctively impressive.

One final chance fell to Euell, but his shot looped weakly over. "We have lost to a penalty and a wonder strike," said Curbishley, his disappointment sharpened not just by his sense of grievance but by a realisation that Charlton are in danger, again, of sliding meekly into the season's end. For Coleman's team, still in contention for European competition themselves, the weeks ahead are brighter.

Fulham 2 Charlton Athletic 0
Malbranque pen 18, Davis 64

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 16,585

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