Fulham lack the finishing touch

Fulham 1 Ipswich Town 1
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The Independent Online

Petulant Luis Boa Morte cost Fulham victory against Ipswich as he missed a penalty and was sent off at soaking Craven Cottage yesterday.

In his 15 minutes of first–half madness, he first fired wide from the penalty spot after John McGreal handled Steve Marlet's ball into the box, then slapped Fabian Wilnis in the face – earning himself a caution – and finally, he theatrically threw himself to the ground in the penalty box.

Referee Mike Riley was not impressed and dished out a second yellow card, followed by a red, for diving.

Barry Hayles pounced on a loose ball six yards out and thumped it into the back of the Town net for the opener after 22 minutes, but Ipswich swarmed all over the 10–man home side at the start of the second period and hauled themselves level when Jermaine Wright found acres of space in the Cottagers penalty box and rifled home.

The Cottagers worked hard to stay in the game and came close to snatching a second goal on several occasions.

But neither side showed real attacking verve, emphasising why – after both enjoyed successful seasons last term – they have struggled in this campaign and find themselves at the wrong end of the Barclaycard Premiership table.

Fulham and Ipswich left their top scorers last season – Louis Saha and Marcus Stewart – on the bench, while the Londoners' Alain Goma started his first game after a six–week absence with a hip injury.

The Tractor Boys' Alun Armstrong overcame his recurring back problem to lead their forward line at the rain–swept ground on the banks of the River Thames.

After 12 minutes, Finidi George headed a corner clear but was floored by Goma.

After three minutes' treatment, George hobbled off to be replaced by Stewart, who took to the field to great cheers from the travelling support.

Fulham's Rufus Brevett was chopped down by Wilnis 10 minutes later, earning the Town player a yellow card.

From the free–kick, on the left flank, John Collins whipped the ball into the box. Andy Melville narrowly failed to make contact with a flying header, but he unsighted defender Wilnis, who failed to control the cross.

The ball dropped and Hayles pounced, six yards out, to gleefully thump the ball into the net for his fourth goal of the season.

The Londoners should have doubled their lead seven minutes later, when McGreal handled Marlet's ball into the danger zone, giving away a spot–kick.

However, Boa Morte became the second Fulham player to miss a penalty in a week.

Saha missed at Aston Villa last Sunday, and Boa Morte suffered the same fate today with a poorly–struck left–foot effort that went a foot wide of the right post.

Former Southampton man Boa Morte – clearly frustrated by his penalty howler – was lucky to stay on the field when he slapped Wilnis.

Ref Riley only booked the Fulham player for an offence that could easily have led to his dismissal.

After several more displays of petulance, Riley did send Boa Morte off on the stroke of half–time, after he nudged the ball past Hermann Hreidarsson and dived in a blatant attempt to win another spot–kick. Riley produced another yellow card, followed by a red.

Ipswich revelled in their numerical advantage at the start of the second period – and it was no surprise when they levelled the score after 57 minutes.

Half–time sub Martijn Reuser beat Marlet, who had been withdrawn to left midfield after Boa Morte's red card, and delivered a curling cross that evaded home goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar's grasp.

The ball reached Sixto Peralta at the far post, and he teed up Wright to rifle into the bottom left corner from 15 yards.

Fulham almost restored their lead immediately, but Goma's powerful header from a Collins set–piece was a yard wide.

The Cottagers battled admirably to overcome their shortage of players – and Saha came off the bench to sting visiting keeper Matteo Sereni's hands with a thunderbolt 25–yarder.

Collins crashed a fine shot a foot over the top, and at the other end, Matt Holland flashed a header from a Jamie Clapham cross narrowly wide.

Goals: Hayles (23) 1-0; Wright (55) 1-1.

Fulham (4-4-2): Van der Sar 6; Finnan 5, Brevett 6, Melville 7, Goma 7; Clark 6 (Davis 61, 6), Collins 6, Legwinski 7, Boa Morte 5; Marlet 6 (Melbranque 61, 7), Hayles 8 (Saha 67, 6). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Knight.

Ipswich (4-4-2): Sereni 7; Wilnis 6 (Reuser 45, 6), McGreal 7, Hreidarsson 7, Makin 6; Holland 6, Wright 7, Clapham 5, Peralta 6 (Magilton 72, 6); Finidi George 6 (Stewart 12, 5), Armstrong 5. Substitutes not used: Branagan (gk), Naylor.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds) 4.

Bookings: Fulham: Boa Morte 33, Legwinski 59, Brevett 90. Ipswich: Armstrong 20, Wilnis 21.

Sending-off: Fulham: Boa Morte 45.

Man of the match: Hayles.

Attendance: 17,221.

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