One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure. Dimitar Berbatov being Fulham manager Martin Jol’s unwanted gold from Manchester United and Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, has Rickie Lambert as his unearthed gem.
Berbatov was a steal at £5m from Sir Alex Ferguson’s United and not only showed his goalscoring prowess with Fulham’s opener but an uncharacteristic attitude to track back and harass defenders from the front.
Adkins inherited Lambert from Alan Pardew, the current Newcastle manager, and after playing in the lower tiers of English football with Rochdale, Macclesfield Town and Bristol City, the 30-year-old keeps showing he is more than capable of playing in the Premier League.
Berbatov, who celebrated his goal by revealing a T-shirt which read “Keep calm and pass me the ball”, was first to get praise from his manager. “I am happy with him,” Jol said. “He shows a lot of skill and quality and he has a lot of self belief which we need. I will have a word with him about his celebration which cost him a yellow card.”
Going into the fixture Fulham had won just one league match in 10, and Steve Sidwell, returning from suspension, looked to change that within the first five minutes but his shot from 20 yards went narrowly wide.
Berbatov scored his sixth goal of the season on eight minutes. Sascha Riether put in a low cross, which Kelvin Davis, the Southampton goalkeeper, spilt and the Bulgarian forward slotted into the open goal. His t-shirt message, however, did not get across to his team-mates as they were anything but calm on the ball after that.
Southampton threatened with long-range efforts from Jack Cork and Jason Puncheon early in the second period. Fulham should have sealed the victory through Ashkan Dejagah but he shot wide of the left-hand post from 15 yards out. Not since a 2-0 victory in 1947 have Southampton won at Craven Cottage and that did not look like changing, even after Chris Baird handled a corner and Lambert converted the penalty kick on 85 minutes. Adkins was also quick to heap praise on his star striker, who has scored seven goals so far this season. “Rickie is quality,” he said. “He is a great forward player for us.
“He takes a great penalty kick and even though Mark got two hands on the ball, because of the power, he could not keep it out. Rickie has scored important goals for us this season and that was another one.”
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