Fortune favouring brave Albion's rise to dizzy heights
West Bromwich Albion 2 Fulham 1
Sunday 24 October 2010
Fulham turned out in military green but it was Roberto di Matteo's Albion who were the better drilled unit, recovering from a freakishly bad start to secure fourth place in the table, at least overnight. Only their older supporters, the ones who saw Cyrille Regis in his pomp, could remember the last time that happened.
Whether the names of Youssouf Mulumbu andMarc-Antoine Fortuné trip off the tongue so readily 30 years from now remains to be seen. But there is no arguing with where they are now after their fourth Premier League win, which is one more than Manchester United have.
"To be fourth is beyond expectations, absolutely," Di Matteo said. "I've no idea how long [we can stay here] but the way we are playing we deserve the points that we have. We work very hard as a team and we try to play good football."
Fulham have not won away from home in 23 consecutive attempts now, a run that goes back to the opening day of last season. Mark Hughes has the unwelcome distinction of having lost at the Hawthorns with three different teams after Blackburn and Manchester City left empty handed under his supervision, although there were extenuating circumstances this time.
With the addition of Simon Davies and Danny Murphy to his injured list, he is without his entire first-choice midfield. What's more, Hughes felt he could argue that neither goal should have stood. "From our point of view, both goals were scored by players in offside positions," he said. "I know there is a grey area about active and inactive players but I feel officials are sometimes hiding behind it when they have made decisions that are not correct. It really needs to be looked at."
Zoltan Gera, Jonathan Greening and Diomansy Kamara all returned to their former patch. Gera made the quickest impact, although it was with some luck. The Albion goalkeeper, Scott Carson, pushed Gera's well-struck 30-yard drive on to a post but was left helpless when the ball then hit his body and rolled back over the line, handing the visitors a ninth-minute lead. Gera was wise not to celebrate.
Hughes believed Fulham played well enough to have built on their fortune but Albion have become well versed in coming from behind and were level eight minutes later when Chris Brunt combined with Mulumbu, whose dynamic performance in midfield made it a close-run thing for man of the match.
Brunt's cut-back pass found the energetic Congolese in space on the right and his crisp finish earned him his first goal in a year. It was Brunt again pulling the strings when Jerome Thomas outpaced Fulham's defence five minutes before half-time, his pass from the left teeing-up Fortuné. Hughes may have had grounds to complain but Albion might have had two penalties, while it took a fine save from Mark Schwarzer to deny Paul Scharner and Jonas Olsson's header was cleared off the line by Stephen Kelly.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the match: Brunt
Match rating: 7/10
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