In a fierce, sometimes nasty encounter that was only ever likely to be decided by fine margins, Fulham found a new name to cheer in 18-year-old Collins John, a Liberian-born striker who marked only his second appearance in the Premiership with two goals, pushing Leicester a little closer to relegation after one season back in the top flight.
Leicester hit the woodwork, had a penalty claim refused and a goal disallowed as they battled for the points they desperately needed but there was no denying the joy Fulham shared with John, who had made his mark with FC Twente in Holland before coming to London in January.
Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, regards his signing as something of a coup given that other, bigger clubs were in the hunt. The teenager, already capped for Holland at Under-18 and Under-21 level, scored with virtually his first touch after coming off the bench, and added his second two minutes from time. "We bought him as one for the future and we won't rush him but he did himself no harm with that," Coleman said.
The teenager gave Fulham their first away win in 11 games, since they returned triumphant from Manchester United in October, ending a barren sequence that has been a factor, along with the sale of Louis Saha, in their slipping into in mid-table after once looking candidates for Europe.
Leicester would give a lot to be ensconced in such comfort. Successful only once in a run of 18 matches, crucially they have not won at home in 11, since 2 November, although their manager, Micky Adams, is refusing to see the survival cause as lost. "With the other results we are still only three points off safety," he said. "And we've got games against Blackburn, Manchester City and Portsmouth still to come."
Leicester's best chance fell to Paul Dickov, who had already crashed one attempt against the bar, midway through the second half when he was one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar but failed to beat the Fulham keeper. A more contentious incident had come moments earlier when the referee, Peter Walton, denied Muzzy Izzet a goal when the Leicester midfielder blocked Van der Sar's attempt to kick out and sent the ball into the Fulham net. The goalkeeper had certainly released the ball from his hands but the Northampton official ruled he had not made contact with his boot when Izzet intervened, which rendered the "goal" illegal.
Izzet had been involved, too, in the penalty claim, taking a blow from Luis Boa Morte in a particularly vulnerable part of his anatomy. Painful though the Fulham player's challenge was, however, it was not nearly as premeditated as some in a contest marred by an undercurrent of nastiness.
John put Fulham ahead with 24 minutes left, flicking the ball over the head of goalkeeper Ian Walker, well out of his goal, after chasing Malbranque's hopeful pass. With Leicester piling forward, they were hit a second time on the break two minutes from the end, Boa Morte charging forward on the left before squaring for John to slide home his second.
Leicester City 0 Fulham 2
John 66, 89
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