Lucky, lucky, Fulham. Chris Coleman's men were outplayed by Bolton Wanderers for more than 70 minutes yesterday, but somehow snatched all three points following a late charge at Loftus Road.
It was not pretty, but all that matters to Coleman is that this fortuitous win keeps Fulham at the top of what he jokingly calls the "other Premiership". "We're almost at the half-way point of the season and we're fourth," the Welshman said. "That proves we have stickability."
They certainly needed to dig deep yesterday, as Bolton took the game to Fulham and dominated for well over an hour. Only the visitors' finishing let them down. "I can't believe we lost this one," was Sam Allardyce's verdict, "but then I suppose you have to take your chances at this level."
Right from the off, Bolton spurned opportunities. The match was less than a minute old when Kevin Davies flicked a long ball into Kevin Nolan's path. The midfielder was totally free inside the area and on-side. If only his finish had matched his run, Edwin van der Sar may not have been able to get the faintest of touches on the ball to deflect it to safety.
It took a further 20 minutes for the home side to register their first shot at goal, as Lee Clark latched on to Junichi Inamoto's deflected pass before drilling the ball high into the stands behind the Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. Moments later, it was the visitors' turn to waste a lucky break. Davies blocked an attempted Fulham clearance and the ball fell to Youri Djorkaeff. The former world and European champion was no more than 12 yards out, but his curling shot was too close to Van der Sar. Just before the break, those misses paled into insignificance, as Inamoto sprinted on to a long ball, but then shot high and wide when he had only the keeper to beat.
The second half started with Fulham still waiting to hit Bolton on the break. That ploy may have worked at Highbury last week, but it was clearly failing against yesterday's more cautious opponents. As a result, Fulham were eventually caught out after 53 minutes, as Ivan Campo flicked on a throw-in to set up the on-rushing Davies. The former Blackburn and Southampton striker found the net, but he will still be wondering how he missed a far easier chance two minutes later.
Meanwhile, Fulham's afternoon was going from bad to worse, as their top goal scorer Louis Saha limped off on the hour mark. Barry Hayles replaced him, but still there seemed to be no way through. The fast-learning Coleman threw on Facundo Sava and switched to a 4-4-2 formation to try to save the game. It worked, as the Argentinian suddenly gave the Bolton defence something to worry about.
Fulham were now launching attack after attack and got the breakthrough in the 75th minute. Sean Davis, who has only just come off the transfer list, controlled a cross from the right before slotting home with a terrific right-foot strike from 12 yards. No doubt inspired, Fulham poured forward again and, profiting from a rare mix-up in the Bolton defence, found an unlikely winner when Sava hit a low, right-footer past the stranded Jaaskelainen. It was the steal of the season.
Davis 75, Sava 76
Bolton Wanderers 1
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 14,393Reuse content