Fulham 2 Blackburn Rovers 1: Fulham hold the fort despite hard day's Knight

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There was nothing homely about Craven Cottage during this encounter as Fulham secured their fourth successive victory on home turf to propel them away from the relegation places. It means they boast a far better home record than Manchester United - strangely the only team that a frustrated Blackburn Rovers have beaten on their League travels.

If the result went somewhat to form, with goals either side of half-time before a 90th-minute Zat Knight own goal, then so did much of the play, with a flurry of rash, late and tetchy challenges for the referee Mark Clattenburg to deal with. Eight cards? Well, it's almost Christmas, although the face of the Blackburn manager Mark Hughes betrayed a far less festive mood.

Afterwards he complained bitterly about his annoyance "with the amount of late flags". The referee was let down by his assistants, Hughes said, while he was let down by his strikers. "We created enough to win two games," he said. "And we have to be more clinical."

Fulham did appear there for the taking and Blackburn came away knowing they could have been victorious. "It was not a great performance," admitted Fulham manager Chris Coleman. It all kicked off with a robust challenge by the relentless Luis Boa Morte on Lucas Neill. The Australian then appeared to spend much of the match trying to exact retribution on the Fulham captain and executed two terrible shoulder charges.

Unfortunately for Neill and his team-mates, Boa Morte likes nothing more than a feisty tussle and he again proved his huge worth to Fulham - "pound for pound our best player", said Coleman, who praised his "heart and passion". Boa Morte set up the first goal with a free-kick for Papa Bouba Diop. Somehow the 6ft 4in Senegalese midfielder was allowed to steal in unmarked and scuff the ball into the net past Brad Friedel.

Boa Morte then added the second himself completing a sharp passing move when he was picked out by the substitute Heidar Helguson. The low cross was curled in after the Portuguese had taken a steadying touch. "We thought it was offside," said Hughes, with some justification.

Apart from an early Collins John header - again set up by Boa Morte - which was tipped over smartly by Friedel, that was it for Fulham, who lost Steed Malbranque to a hamstring injury before kick-off and had to deal with Diop going off with a knock to his ankle soon into the second half.

Blackburn were more profligate, adding to the criminality by not even forcing Mark Crossley into saves. A header from Brett Emerton went wide, a shot from Morten Gamst Pedersen was skied before the Norwegian shuddered the crossbar with a left-footed free-kick.

But they kept pushing and hope came when Knight inadvertently headed Paul Dickov's cross into his own net. Dickov was now buzzing, curling another shot narrowly wide and forcing Crossley to parry as Fulham panicked. "If we had scored 10 minutes sooner we would have got something out of the game," said Hughes. "I'm certain this time last year we would have lost," added Coleman. Both managers were right. Craven Cottage? More like Craven Castle.

Comments