Wolves' rebuilding work on and off pitch beginning to bear fruit
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Fulham 0
Monday 22 August 2011
The rebuilding of the stand named after Wolverhampton Wanderers' greatest manager is proof that this is a ground as well as a club that is in transition. Stan Cullis would have recognised the league table that on the final whistle showed Wolves, however briefly, top.
Mick McCarthy may never cast Cullis's kind of shadow over Molineux but the fact that for the third successive season his team walked out to"Fanfare for the Common Man" asmembers of the Premier League is its own achievement. The fact thatthey have six points from two matches suggests that this season, unlike the last, may not go down to the final afternoon.
You are not so sure about Fulham. Since their chairman, Mohamed al Fayed, was busy dropping into the BigBrother house this weekend, he may have missed the result – which might be just as well for his manager, Martin Jol.
The last time Wolves were top of the top flight was in 1973 in a season in which they lost their next five matches before overcoming Manchester City in the League Cup final.
It was a season in which Frank Munro, their Scottish centre-back who died this week, played a central role. They applauded Wolves' past before kick-off and they applauded the present at the final whistle.
McCarthy, naturally, was dismissive of it all, pointing out that Wolves start each season bottom on alphabetical order.
There was some lingering anger about this fixture that last season saw Bobby Zamora's leg broken after a tackle from Karl Henry that gave Wolves a reputation for pitbull football.
"That incident did us a real disservice, so it gave me great pleasure to watch my team beating them the right way," said McCarthy.
"But I think Fulham were at a disadvantage by playing on the Thursday night. It will be a long time before I'll want to play in the Europa League and if there was ever a chance of us getting in via the Fair Play League, I'd go straight on the field and tackle someone."
From the long-distance drives from Jamie O'Hara to Stephen Ward's last-ditch tackle as the goal gaped in front of Moussa Dembele, this was a complete performance from Wolves.
Cullis would have recognised the play as well as the table as Wolves funnelled the ball towards their two high-quality wingers, Stephen Hunt and Matt Jarvis, who stretched Fulham to and past the limit.
Jol agreed, though, that the game was lost before the interval.
It began with a long ball thatKevin Doyle and Brede Hangeland raced for down the Fulham right. The Norwegian allowed himself to be brushed aside in front of his own supporters. Doyle rounded Mark Schwarzer but the angle was tight and the Irishman was off balance, although he had more time than he knew. McCarthy's expression as he shot over was proof of that.
It was followed by another expletive from the Yorkshireman's throat but this time in admiration rather than frustration as Schwarzer tipped O'Hara's shot past the post.
Then came the fatal three minutes. A short corner was played back in and Doyle seized the ball from between Pajtim Kasami and John Arne Riise, held them off, swivelled and shot into the roof of the net.
Three minutes later came another of those crosses from Hunt that sooner or later were bound to tell. Roger Johnson's head met it before Schwarzer's glove; the ball struck the foot of the post and what had started with one winger ended with the other as the ball fell at Jarvis's feet.
Wolves Foley (Hunt, 84), Kightly (Jarvis, 90), Elokobi (Fletcher, 90).
Fulham Dembele 5 (Kasami, 45), Sidwell 5 (Etuhu, 45).
Booked: Wolves Hunt, Doyle. Fulham J A Riise, Dembele.
Man of the match Hunt.
Referee M Dean (Wirral).
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