Malbranque at the double as Blackburn pay penalty

Blackburn Rovers 1 - Fulham 3
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The Independent Football

A week after storming out of Craven Cottage in a huff after being dropped by his manager, Chris Coleman, Steed Malbranque returned to the Fulham line-up with two goals to secure a first away win since January for the west London side.

A week after storming out of Craven Cottage in a huff after being dropped by his manager, Chris Coleman, Steed Malbranque returned to the Fulham line-up with two goals to secure a first away win since January for the west London side.

Fulham were behind after six minutes but the Frenchman, left out against Everton and Newcastle in midweek, equalised after 20 and struck his side's third after Brian McBride had put them ahead early in the second half.

"I left Steed out of the Newcastle game because of how he reacted to being dropped against Everton but to come back as he did today was the perfect response," Coleman said.

Both teams had already secured their places in the Premiership next season but hardly played as though nothing was at stake, each having a man sent off in the space of two minutes as tempers flared in the second half. Portuguese international Luis Boa Morte was at the centre of both incidents, the first resulting in a red card for Blackburn veteran Craig Short, the second bringing the same fate for Fulham's Liam Rosenior.

Given that Blackburn have scored at the rate of one goal every hour and 45 minutes this season, their early goal came as a surprise, not least because the scorer was Lucas Neill, who last found the net in December 2003. Yet the full-back slotted his chance past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar as if he did it every week.

Blackburn's marking was amiss when Fulham drew level, Lee Clark cutting back a pass from the byline for Malbranque to sweep the ball home unchallenged.

Where Blackburn's efforts to regain the lead before half-time went unrewarded, Fulham's bright opening to the second half did not, as Mark Pembridge's 53rd-minute corner found McBride unmarked to shoot home at the far post.

Blackburn squandered the chance to draw level when Boa Morte gave away a penalty for a push on Morten Gamst Pedersen, Robbie Savage confidently taking the ball from team-mate David Thompson but seeing his spot-kick saved by Van der Sar.

Short was dismissed for knocking down Boa Morte after the winger went in late on Blackburn's Ryan Nelsen, while a challenge by Savage on Boa Morte prompted Rosenior to kick out at the Welshman, attracting the same punishment.

With Short departed, Blackburn's defence was further depleted and it was hardly surprising that Fulham should score a third, Malbranque's second goal of the afternoon putting the outcome beyond doubt.

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