Fulham 2 Blackburn Rovers 2: Fulham waste their opportunity as Warnock stages rescue act

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The Independent Online

It is amazing what a goal can do. At half-time, when the scores were 0-0, this was a tepid and error-strewn encounter that reflected the negativity of the respective managers' tactics. Once Fulham went in front shortly after the interval, it turned into the high-tempo, free-flowing match that the two teams' protagonists are capable of creating.

The referee Mike Dean played his part as he was forced into a series of tight decisions which predictably had both managers complaining. It was Fulham's Lawrie Sanchez who had most cause for displeasure at full time, though, because his side again displayed their trait of throwing away the lead – twice.

The Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes, intimated that it is a fitness issue, but Sanchez thinks there are several reasons for his team's bad habit. " We're questioning every area as to why it's happening," he said. " It's knowing how to win football games. We've got a lot of players who are new to this League."

Sanchez had left both David Healy and Shefki Kuqi out of his starting XI, preferring Diomansy Kamara and Clint Dempsey up front. Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz was also rested. Benni McCarthy was supposed to be the visitors' lone striker. But, after just two minutes, he sustained a knee injury after a reckless barge from Dejan Stefanovic. Jason Roberts replaced McCarthy.

Stefanovic was soon irritating the away fans again as he tussled with David Bentley. The Blackburn winger tumbled in the area, but was booked for diving.

Despite the promising start, the game's pace slowed and chances gradually became rarer. The match needed a creative spark and it arrived when Kamara sped down the left, shortly before half-time, before crossing dangerously. Brad Friedel managed to palm the ball away.

That brought Blackburn to life and they showed that positive instinct again after the break, but in the 50th minute they fell behind when Ryan Nelsen brought down Kamara, leading to a penalty. The hard-working Danny Murphy struck in confidently from the spot.

Suddenly the match opened up. Blackburn came close as Morten Gamst Pedersen headed over before another penalty shout for Fulham, when Andre Ooijer appeared to handle the ball, was turned down. More controversy followed as Blackburn equalised. Warnock's deep cross from the left was flicked on by Roberts. Despite looking offside, play continued and Brett Emerton controlled it on his chest before shooting beyond Antti Niemi.

The open football, in stark contrast to the first half, did not relent after that goal and the home side quickly regained the lead. Murphy supplied Simon Davies on the right and his low cross was tapped in by Kamara in the six-yard box. "In days gone by, it's a stonewall offside," moaned Hughes. "The goals that we conceded, I'm a little disappointed with."

Blackburn refused to wilt. Niemi made several excellent saves, but he was helpless when the Lancashire side levelled for a second time. Roberts was the creator, wriggling through some disorganised Fulham defending before squaring the ball to the back post, where an unmarked Stephen Warnock delivered the finishing touch. Fulham had seen it all before.

Goals: Murphy pen (50) 1-0; Emerton (57) 1-1; Kamara (63) 2-1; Warnock (79) 2-2.

Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Baird, Hughes, Stefanovic, Konchesky; Davies, Davis, Murphy (Healy, 83), Bouazza (Kuqi, 67); Dempsey, Kamara (Seol, 83). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Bocanegra.

Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Friedel; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Emerton, Bentley, Mokoena (Reid, 90), Tugay, Pedersen; McCarthy (Roberts 8). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Savage, Khizanishvili.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Fulham Murphy; Blackburn Bentley.

Man of the match: Kamara.

Attendance: 22,826.

Lion Cub?

Stephen Warnock (Blackburn)

The left-back, 25, broke forward confidently, showed touch and vision, put in some threatening crosses and scored a vital goal for Rovers.

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