Fulham 2 Hull 2 match report: Fulham left with sinking feeling after Shane Long leveller
Magath targets two wins after his side squander 2-0 lead and chance to escape the bottom three
For 20 minutes yesterday Fulham were out of the bottom three for the first time since January. Two goals in three minutes, by Ashkan Dejagah and Fernando Amorebieta, had started the party. With half-an-hour to go salvation beckoned by the Thames. Then Hull forgot about their FA Cup final date and plunged a dagger into the Londoners’ hopes of a 14th successive season in the top flight.
It was Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, neither of whom can play at Wembley as they are cup-tied, who wielded the knife, the latter heading in at the far post with just four minutes remaining.
Fulham are back in the bottom three. They have two games left at Stoke and against Crystal Palace – teams that, while with little to play for, will not roll over.
“We have to win them,” said Felix Magath, Fulham’s third manager of the season. But they also need other teams to drop points, quite a lot of points. This was not in the brochure when Shahid Khan paid approaching £200 million for Fulham last summer.
The American owner does not have to worry about relegation in the NFL, where he owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it becoming a very real prospect for the UK arm of his sporting empire.
Khan paid a flying visit to Craven Cottage yesterday leaving at half-time because the last time he did so Fulham won. When, as he headed for the airport, Fulham’s goals were heard on the radio he must have thought his superstitious move had paid off. But luck was against Fulham, Jelavic’s goal following a freak deflection as Sascha Riether attempted to cut out Sone Aluko’s through ball. David Stockdale pushed it onto the bar, but when it came down Jelavic headed in.
While outlandish the goal was part of the piece in a turbulent second half which included the comical sight of the diminutive Mahamadou Diarra squaring up to the hulking Tom Huddlestone.,
The first half was soporific by comparison despite the vibrant pre-match mood. Disregarding the unfortunate experience suffered by Chris Hughton, who was struck by a flying clapper as he made for the tunnel at the end of what proved his last match as Norwich manager, Fulham had again issued the folded card contraptions and to the announcer David Hamilton’s call of “It’s Showtime,” Craven Cottage reverberated with noise as kick-off approached.
The pre-match tune of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, was sung lustily by supporters. At times this season Fulham have, though, been unbearable to watch, most notably when losing 6-0 at Hull.
That was under their second manager of the season, Rene Meulensteen. His replacement has had to acquaint himself with a bloated squad while trying to win matches. It has been a tough process and Magath’s team selections have been as inconsistent as David Moyes’ were at Manchester United. Yesterday he made three changes from the XI well beaten at Tottenham. Diarra, Lewis Holtby and Reither replaced Dejagah, William Kvist and Alexander Kacaniklic, the latter two being dropped from the matchday squad.
It seemed an oddly negative choice given Fulham’s need to win. Diarra sat deepest of a trio of holding midfielders while John Arne Riise was asked to attack the left flank and Holtby given licence to drift in from the right. That was the theory. It worked well enough at the start with Riise fizzing a shot wide from Hugo Rodallega’s lay-off, then the Colombian himself somehow failing to make contact with a cross from Fernando Amorebieta.
But once Hull, rejigged into a three-man defence after being beaten comprehensively at home by Arsenal, settled into their new shape Fulham found chances increasingly elusive. Indeed, it was Hull who came closest to scoring before the break when Long went clear only to be bundled over by Amorebieta. To the audible relief of Fulham fans, Lee Mason did not give a penalty.
At the break, Magath threw on Dejagah and Kieran Richardson, soon adding Darren Bent. His boldness paid off as Dejagah dummied David Meyler and Liam Rosenior before curling in his second goal in his last four substitute appearances, then Amorebieta headed in Richardson’s cross to become the first Venezuelan player to score in the Premier League.
Fulham were cruising until Jelavic’s fluke goal induced panic. While Bent wasted a chance to score, and Dejagah brought a fine save from Steve Harper, Hull hit the woodwork through both Aluko and Elmohamady before Long peeled off to head in Aluko’s cross.
“We were in complete control then we had a crazy few minutes and we are two-nil down and thinking where’s that come from?” said Steve Bruce, Hull’s manager. “But the reason we’re 13th in the league and in the FA Cup final is we don’t give up.” Hull now have 37 points which Bruce said “might be enough, it usually is”. Pondering the scrap going on beneath them he added: “I’m glad we’re not in this shite.” Fulham, though, are deep in the mire and the fans trooping away left their behind clappers on which was season tickets were advertised “from £299”. Good value for the Premier League, less so for the Championship.
Fulham (4-1-4-1): Stockdale; Reither, Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta; Diarra; Holtby (Dejagah, h-t), Parker, Sidwell (Bent, 53), Riise (Richardson, h-t); Rodallega..
Hull City (3-5-2): Harper; Chester, Bruce (Aluko, 67), Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler (Sagbo, 82), Rosenior (Boyd, 82); Jelavic, Long.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the match: Long (Hull)
Match rating: 7/10
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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