Crystal Palace secured their first win of the Premiership campaign at the eighth attempt here last night, although they displayed some understandable jitters before making the most of the chance offered to them by the sixth-minute dismissal of Fulham's Ian Pearce.
The result lifted Palace one place off the bottom - they have a better goal difference of one over Norwich - but may have a more dramatic effect on their morale.
Emotions ran high at the final whistle, and while the bulk of the 21,825 crowd launched into "Glad All Over", a heated debate between Ivan Kaviedes and Fulham's Billy McKinlay which briefly threatened to involve a number of players disproved the accuracy of Palace's theme tune.
"It was a big psychological thing to get our first win," said Palace's assistant manager Kit Symons. "With West Brom winning on Saturday there was extra pressure on us to get three points. It's been a long time coming, but I'm confident our luck will turn around now. For a while in the Premiership we were pinching ourselves, happy to be here. But now we are starting to get settled in." The Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, still hugely popular at Selhurst Park having spent five years here as a player, was a dark and glowering presence after what he saw as yet another example of his side's inconsistency this season.
"I don't think we lost the game because of the sending off," he said. "We lost because we weren't good enough. It could have been 4-0. If we don't get it right and start competing week in, week out it's going to be a long hard season. Some of my boys need to wake up and smell the coffee."
Even if Coleman didn't regard it as a turning point, Pearce's sending off presented the home side with an ideal opportunity to prosper. The Fulham defender mis-hit a backpass and then brought down Andy Johnson as he hared on to the opportunity for a one-on-one with keeper Edwin van der Sar, who had suffered a suspected broken nose moments earlier after a clash with the Palace forward.
Palace struggled to take advantage until Johnson broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half when Riihilahti spotted his darting run into the box and supplied him with a first-time diagonal pass.
Only a late intervention by Moritz Volz prevented Jaas Kolkka doubling the lead soon afterwards, but the tiring visitors were only delaying the inevitable. In the 69th minute, Riihilahti double the Palace lead with a header from Routlege's corner so powerful that Van der Sar could only palm it up into the roof of the net.
The home side should have had two more goals in the final five minutes. First Johnson, having broken clear alongside substitute Vassilius Lakis, contrived to shoot wide with only the keeper to beat, and then Kaviedes hit the post from close range. For once, the misses were a luxury Palace could afford. But they had better not make a habit of it.
Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Kiraly; Boyce, Hall (Sorondo, h-t), Popovic, Granville; Routledge (Lakis, 71), Hughes, Watson, Riihilahti (Kaviedes, 74), Kolkka; Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Torghelle.
Fulham (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Volz, Knight, Pearce, Green; Malbranque, McKinlay, Pembridge, Luis Boa-Morte; Radzinski (Goma, 9; Bocanegra, 63), McBride (John, 63). Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Rehman.
Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).Reuse content