Hull City 2 Fulham 1: Folan provides the finishing touch to Hull's grand opening
Brown's newly promoted side begin life among elite with special victory
Sunday 17 August 2008
It has taken 108 years for Humberside's principal city to be represented at the highest level of English football but the wait seemed worth every minute yesterday afternoon as Hull celebrated with a glorious victory in the final 10 minutes. To achieve it, the team widely tipped to finish bottom of the Premier League even had to come from behind, Geovanni and substitute Caleb Folan erasing the memory of Seol Ki-Hyeon's early header.
After struggling in those early stages, when Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard were controlling play, Phil Brown's side improved sufficiently to deserve their success. Particularly gratifying for the locals, and all romantics, was the fact that three Hull players were completing a set in having appeared for the club at all four levels during their remarkable rise through the divisions over the past five years.
Offered a less than frightening start in meeting Fulham, Blackburn and Wigan, they will now look to build on confidence and cohesion over the next couple of games. Beating a team who spent five times more money during pre-season is a fine start. Fulham, expected by many to be among the relegation contenders themselves after surviving on goal difference last time by winning their final three games, fell away badly.
"It was very enjoyable," Hull's manager smiled, "although there were moments in the first half that weren't. They took the wind out of our sails and for 20 minutes we were chasing shadows. But in the second half we fully deserved what we got."
Fulham's Roy Hodgson has been around the block too many times all over Europe to become suicidal over one defeat brought about by a defensive error. "We only have ourselves to blame," he said. "It was quite an even game but all credit to Hull for their second-half performance."
The biggest crowd ever to watch the Tigers at the KC Stadium played their part too after experiencing most emotions in the course of a fluctuating first half. Hodgson had warned that Hull, as a newly promoted side, would start "like a house on fire". They did so before Seol appeared to have doused the flames, only for Geovanni to fan them again.
In only the third minute, Richard Garcia knocked Andy Dawson's header square for Geovanni, who was foiled by Mark Schwarzer, one of four debutants in Fulham's much revamped squad. As the ball broke loose, Nicky Barmby's drive was cleared off the line. For the next quarter of an hour, however, Fulham ran the game.
In the eighth minute, the impressive John Pantsil fed Bullard for a perfect cross that Seol headed in. Pantsil almost turned in one of several corners and Simon Davies volleyed the next one fractionally too high before Zoltan Gera, at the far post, sliced Pantsil's cross feebly wide.
Just when Hull were wondering if every game was going to be this tough, Geovanni exhibited the touch of class they will need to have any chance of staying up. Fed by Sam Ricketts towards the right touchline, he drifted inside and with Brede Hangeland dilatory in closing him down, drove a fierce shot beyond Schwarzer's dive.
"A player who didn't get a fair crack of the whip at Manchester City," Brown said. "When I saw he was available as a free transfer, I couldn't believe it."
The Brazilian missed badly from six yards at the start of the second half, as did Gera at the other end, which with Andy Johnson missing and Bobby Zamora ineffective, proved Fulham's final threat.
As the crowd sensed a glory day, Michael Turner headed over the bar from a corner, Hangeland pulled off an important tackle to stop Marlon King and Peter Halmosi set up Garcia for a 20-yard shot that Schwarzer did well to get down to. Halmosi was one of three substitutes brought on, and any disappointment in the stands that Dean Windass, the 39-year-old hero of the Wembley play-off final, was not one of them, disappeared when the two others combined for the winning goal.
It stemmed from a catastrophic error by Fulham's left-back Paul Konchesky, dispossessed by Craig Fagan, whose square pass found Folan unmarked for a jubilant tap-in.
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