Martin Jol's face resembled thunder on Wednesday night. A pain the Europa League might have been, but for his Fulham side to go out of the competition in such excruciating circumstances, to the latest of injury-time equalisers, was tough to take. A bulldog chewing a wasp, to borrow an old graphic expression, would have looked less anguished.
Three days later, Jol was jolly again. Fulham brushed aside a woeful Bolton Wanderers at Craven Cottage and eased up into the safer regions of the Premier League. Just perhaps it was good to be rid of Europe, after all.
"After the disappointment on Wednesday, the most important thing was to get the points," Jol said. "We needed to get a third goal but were a bit sloppy in the second half and lost our momentum." Was Europe a distraction? "We never said that but... maybe it is a blessing that we are no longer in it. With all those games, a lot of Thursday nights, it was hard going. But now we can focus on the League."
Fulham showed no symptoms of a post-Europa hangover in a stirring first-half display. Shots rained in on Jussi Jaaskelainen, Bolton's goalkeeper, from all angles, with Andy Johnson driving wide when clean through, Clint Dempsey miscuing a volley and then a Danny Murphy effort flying off-target via a deflection. Johnson declined to use his left foot, when he should have done, and was blocked out; Brede Hangeland nodded over from a Murphy corner when it seemed easier to score.
It mattered not, though. Fulham were soon back on track, when Bryan Ruiz crossed from the right and Dempsey nosed ahead of Dedryck Boyata to nod past Jaaskelainen. Two minutes later, it was 2-0, when Ruiz latched on to a rather hopeful punt forward from Hangeland. The Costa Rica winger outpaced Marcos Alonso and then delightfully chipped the ball over the onrushing Jaaskelainen.
Fulham were in cruise control and David Stockdale in goal had little to do. And, therefore, little chance to impress the watching Fabio Capello, the England manager, and Ray Clemence, his goalkeeping coach. But he did move smartly to keep out a low drive from Mark Davies – just about enough to keep Capello and Clemence interested.
Bolton were clueless and small wonder that Owen Coyle, their manager, made two changes at half-time – Chris Eagles for Darren Pratley and Gretar Steinsson for Boyata. "The team was a bit fragile," Coyle said. "To give away that second goal, almost straight from the restart, was poor. We shot ourselves in the foot."
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Baird, Senderos, Hangeland, J A Riise; Murphy, Etuhu; Ruiz, Dembele, Dempsey; Johnson.
Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Boyata (Steinsson, h-t), Cahill, Knight, Alonso; Reo-Coker, Pratley (Eagles, h-t), Muamba, M Davies; K Davies (Ngog, 56), Klasnic.
Referee Chris Foy.
Man of the match Johnson (Fulham).
Match rating 6/10.Reuse content