Five-star Fulham make light of Dempsey loss

Fulham 5 Norwich City 0

Clint Dempsey and all those of a yellow and green persuasion will share a determination this morning to avoid a look at the season's first league table.

For Norwich the reason is obvious; for Dempsey the realisation that Fulham are lording it above everyone else at the top of the pile might just elicit a pang of embarrassment in light of his wish to find a club who can give him success.

The Dempsey factor was so dominant in Fulham's well-being last year that the club's next four highest scorers couldn't match his total of goals when added together. Not surprisingly it won him suitors across the land, enough to persuade the American that he had outgrown his Craven Cottage surroundings.

His desire for a new home has been an unpalatable backdrop to Fulham's pre-season and persuaded some fans that his absence would put their 11-year stay in the Premier League in jeopardy. Those pessimistic opinions were in need of revision from the midway point of the first half when a bout of sustained pressure opened the floodgates.

Before Norwich could say "Paul Lambert" they had the look of a beaten team – an image rarely seen in their first season back in the top flight when they were competitive week in, week out.

Chris Hughton, appointed as Lambert's successor, was dismayed to see his team gift Fulham the room to create, and how they made it pay, their passing, movement and aplomb in front of goal encapsulating all the qualities that Dempsey brought to the Londoners last season.

"Clint was terrific for us last year, the most productive midfielder in the whole league. Hopefully he will play for us again," said Fulham manager Martin Jol in response to the player's reported wish to never put on a Fulham shirt again. "You see teams pay £15-16 million for players who score four or five goals a season. Clint scored 17 from a wide position so what does that make him worth, £50 million?

"He wants to move but what makes it awkward is that there were no offers for him. So in a normal world you have to stay where you are."

In Dempsey's absence, Mladen Petric, a summer recruit from Hamburg, shone, scoring twice and sharing man of the match honours with Bryan Ruiz. Fulham's first goal was put away by Damien Duff after John Arne Riise's long ball. The second saw Petric rise above Marc Tierney to head home Riise's corner.

With Norwich offering nothing in response, despite the introduction of Steve Morison at the interval, it was no surprise that the ground reverberated in the second half to "Are you watching Clint Dempsey?"

The third owed a lot to a deflection off Michael Turner with Petric shooting with power, while the fourth would have been hard for Dempsey to better, Petric's astute back heel paving the way for Alex Kacaniklic to finish coolly.

Steve Sidwell rammed home the fifth from the penalty spot after the hapless Turner had fouled Hugo Rodallega to complete Hughton's humiliation at the hands of the man with whom he shared a successful managerial partnership at Tottenham.

"Anything can happen in this division and this won't be our only defeat by a few goals," Hughton said. "I'm bitterly disappointed how comfortably we conceded the goals."

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise; Duff (Kasami, 74), Diarra, Dembele, Kacaniklic; Ruiz (Sidwell, 81), Petric (Rodallega, 67).

Norwich (4-1-4-1): Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Tierney; Johnson; Snodgrass (E Bennett, 55), Howson, Surman (Morison, 46), Pilkington; Holt (Hoolahan, 77).

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Man of the match: Petric (Fulham)

Match rating: 7/10

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