Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Zamora’

Why Bobby Zamora has to be seriously considered for England.

February 22, 2010

I wasn’t going to write a post about this topic but the ignorant comments of one Alan Hansen irritated me, so I felt I should say something.  Hansen’s rather smug ‘Zamora is not an international player’ comment was almost a carbon copy of Geordie buffoon Alan Shearer’s comments a few months ago. Both dismissed Zamora without saying why and both had a very smug attitude about it. In my book, whenever Shearer says anything about football, I tend to believe the exact opposite, such is his insight into the game. There can be no doubting that he was an excellent player but he is as intelligent as Sarah Palin.

Rant over, here are a few reasons why Zamora should be considered for the England squad:

1) He offers something different. Roy has alluded to this many times, and it is hard to argue with him. Can anyone name another English forward with the same skill set as Bobby Zamora? He is faster than Heskey, holds the ball up better than crouch and is more of a handful for defenders physically than Defoe. When I sat in the riverside whilst watching Fulham outplay CSKA Sofia, Zamora had several absolute world-class touches and flick-ons that some of the best strikers in the world would be proud of. Even my non-Fulham supporting friend who is super critical of players was mightily impressed.  I would be intrigued to see Zamora line up alongside Rooney, they would be one of the most bizarre/interesting front lines in the world, and I am sure really confuse and challenge defenders in different ways. England have not made a significant mark in International football for over 40 years, why not at least try something different?

2) He is on fire. For some reason people look at Rooney and say that his form is excellent therefore he will singlehandedly win the world cup for England. But when you mention the form of Bobby Zamora people say that it will dip and it has only been ‘alright’. Hmm, whilst it is very possible that his form will dip towards the end of the season, I think the fact he is in such excellent form at the moment has to put him in contention. Play him against Egypt. I can only see his confidence increasing yet further.  He is certainly in better form than Crouch, Heskey and Carlton Cole, the latter being in contention despite missing most of the season through injury.

3) He is a team player who brings others into play. What is the most important thing that Fabio Capello has done with England? He has made them start playing as a team. This is why Heskey has been so successful. Imagine an England team where Zamora can play in the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney like he does with Dempsey, Gera and Duff at Fulham. Again an intriguing scenario. England have a lot of attacking talent going forward but it can be under utilised exactly because there are so many attacking players. Bobby’s hold up play brings these players in and removes another attacker who wants to do it all themselves.

4) He works hard. Last season whilst he was struggling to get goals and being derided as a donkey he still put in a shift ever match. I have not witnessed one Zamora appearance for Fulham where he has not tried, even when fans have been on his back and he could have simply removed effort from his game. Pair him alongside Rooney and you would have the two hardest working forwards in world football.

One final word about Zamora. I think he has found the same situation with  Roy Hodgson that Hodgson himself has found at Fulham. They are perfect for each other. Roy has kept faith in Zamora like few other managers would. He has always championed what he has brought to the team when the goals were not flowing and I am sure Zamora is grateful for this. If anyone is worried about him leaving in the summer, I just cannot see it happening unless a really big side comes in for him, which won’t happen.

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Fulham 2-1 Birmingham

February 21, 2010

I enjoyed this match from the screen of my mobile via a series of updates, so I will keep this short.  I have to admit that seeing Fulham 0-1 down after 3 minutes made me give up on this game. In my head I saw a carbon copy of the game at St.Andrews with Birmingham shutting up shop, but it appears this did not happen.

Fulham were poor first half, looking jaded from midweek exertions and rightly so. Birmingham could have put the game away bar some solid defending and some excellent keeping. I have to say I agree totally with Alex McLeish:

We lost because of two pieces of inspiration from Fulham, the finishes were brilliant. That is the difference in quality that we have to aspire to.

Bang on. Duff’s goal was a real piledriver, but one with pinpoint precision. Zamora’s was an excellent curling free kick which had all the hallmarks of a man on form.

One final word for Alex McLeish. What a true gentleman post match, a hard loss for him to take but took it with grace and continued with his praise of Fulham from previous weeks. I would love to see him at Fulham in the future and if Birmingham spend, underachieve and get restless with McLeish, you never know. Speculation alert: A replacement for Roy in a few years time??

That Bobby Zamora Goal Again

February 19, 2010

Watching the highlights almost gets better every time.

I just keep thinking back to that Alan Patridge classic:

Shit! Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine!

Always enjoyable.

Fulham 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk

February 19, 2010

What. A. Game. This is what the Europa League is all about and why it is ridiculous that so many people dismiss it as a ‘mickey mouse’ competition.

I had previously struggled to concentrate at work in the hours building up to the game, viewing TIFF and getting excited. The pre-match pints calmed me to a certain extent but I was sure the game was going to be a cracker and I was not disappointed. Fulham got off to an excellent start throwing men forward and could have taken the lead seconds into the game when Brede Hangeland peeled away at the back post and hit a bullet header at goal, only for the Shakhtar keeper to pull off a fantastic fingertip save. This early incisive action lifted the Fulham crowd and within minutes the pressure had paid off. Danny Murphy fed the ball to the feet of Bobby Zamora who in turn flicked to ball into the path of a rampaging Zoltan Gera to slide beneath the keeper from the left hand side of the box. Yes, the keeper should have done better, but it was a nice move finished off decisively, and you could not begrudge Fulham the lead.

Then the match started to change. Shakhtar found their feet and soon their midfield were zipping the ball about and Fulham were left chasing shadows.  The Brazilian midfielders were technically excellent and they teased Fulham by passing the ball around the edge of the area, looking for an opening. When Fulham did get the ball, the lack of width from the fullbacks was crippling (even though Stephen Kelly put in one hell of a defensive performance) and Fulham reverted to knocking it long. This would have been fine but Zamora is not the best in the air and he struggled to assert his dominance. Fulham were looking shaky with long periods spent chasing Shakhtar. Eventually the equaliser came. Funnily enough not from lots of patient buildup play but courtesy of a turnover in the midfield and some quick thinking by Ilsinho who slotted an inch perfect pass into the path of Luis Adriano, the prolific striker rounded a floundering Mark Schwarzer and passed the ball into the empty net – deadly and decisive. I dont like to lay blame at players doors for goals but I did wonder why Schwarzer raced off his line as Adriano was being forced wide by a combo of the speed of the ball and the covering Aaron Hughes.

The goal quieted the crowd and soon it looked like Fulham just needed to get to half time. I will admit to fearing the worst as the half time whistle blew and prayed for a ‘Roy Hodgson special’ teamtalk which would motivate the players and get things going in the second half. And I wasn’t disappointed. Fulham came out with much more purpose and actually played the ball along the floor. The crowd started singing and suddenly it was an even contest once again. Fulham were probing and it was the outstanding Zamora who would create a piece of magic to lift everyone inside Craven Cottage. Hangeland slid through an excellent pass to the feet of Gera, who repaid Bobby’s assist from the first half with a marvellous backheel into the path of Zamora, this season brimming with confidence, who powered a stunning Tony-Yeboahesq screamer off the underside of the bar and into the net. This lifted to roof off of the Cottage and a rather bemused appearing Zamora looked as though he didn’t really know what to do with himself.

Two more Fulham chances shortly followed, firstly Gera testing the keeper with a decent header and then Bobby Zamora flicking the ball wide having lost his man at the far post. The game then swung back Shakhtars way in the final 10 minutes. Fulham seemed content to sit back and prevent being hit on the break, a la the Roma game, and Shakhtar took advantage again spraying excellent passes both short and long about the pitch. Mark Schwarzer came to Fulham’s rescue at the death as he produced a fine save, palming to ball wide of the post to deny Costa. Cue me jumping out of my seat and screaming like a wildman a good second before everyone else, much to the amusement of my friends.

Lots of talk after the game was of how good Shakhtar were and what a tough match the second leg will be. However, and perhaps this is my continued sense of elation from the result, I am quietly confident that we can get a result in Ukraine. A few reasons:

1) Whilst they were excellent passers of the ball, they went sideways a lot of the time and for me, did not have too many good chances or even many shots on target. Whilst at home they will no doubt be good,  we have a very good defence that will have more than a chance of strangling their creativity.

2) The Full Back Situation- If we can get Konch back for the trip next week then I think it will transform Fulham. Not that Kelly played badly, just that because he was on the wrong side he struggled to get  forward. I would even consider putting him on the right for the return leg ahead of Baird.

3) We are not a physical team, yet we won the physical battle in the midfield by a mile. By the end of the game they didn’t want to put the ball into the box in the air and this limited what they could do. In Donetsk, we can hustle and unsettle them and attempt to hit them on the break.

Whatever the result next Thursday, Fulham v Shakhtar Donetsk will definitely go down as a great game in the history of Fulham F.C.

Fulham 3-0 Burnley

February 10, 2010

It was before christmas the last time I could legitimately enjoy a Fulham performance. That game was Fulham’s 3-0 battering of Manchester United, which was followed by a good draw with Spurs then a terrible run of away form. The Portsmouth match last week was more nerve-racking than enjoyable and the game at Bolton on Saturday pretty dire, only the result softening the blow of another fairly poor performance. Not that I am complaining, Fulham have been crippled both by injuries and an extensive fixture list which pitted them against their most disliked adversaries in the form of both midweek games on cold nights and northern teams who are not afraid to put the boot in.

Alas, last night Fulham stumbled upon a northern team who tried to play football. I have a lot of admiration for Burnley, they play football in an aesthetically pleasing fashion and are attempting to stay in a league well known for fiscal excess with a plan of prudence and measured spending on a shoe-string budget. Maybe it was because Fulham won, but I found myself liking Burnley and their fervent away support, the voices not subdued by a poor away performance. The television cameras kept cutting to jubilant Burnley fans trying to stay warm by dancing around with smiles on faces. They join the list of teams that I never thought I’d like, alongside Hull and Stoke (the latter because I like the fact they have shown no fear of the premier league and have a manager who seems honest into the bargain).

As for the football, Fulham were excellent last night. Something seemed to click; was it the return of some steel in our midfield in the form of Etuhu? Was it the return of the excellent Bobby Zamora? Whatever it was, it is certainly welcome. The game had a fairly quiet start, with both sides determined to play nice passing football. Burnley looked lively when in full flow but ultimately not particularly threatening. Fulham upped a gear and the first goal came. After a good spell of passing, Nicky Shorey fired an excellent diagonal ball onto the head of David Elm, who cushioned the ball into the path of Murphy in the Burnley area. Murphy held off a challenge form a Burnley defender and calmly slotted home. Murphy’s composure in front of goal is a part of his game that I feel has been underrated by Fulham fans (incl. myself) because he doesnt make as many forward runs as he used to, but as with his penalties he seems to have ice running through his veins.

Unfortunately for Burnley fans, the goal was an unfair one. Elm had strayed a good half yard offside before setting up the goal. Fulham’s luck was in and this featured again in the second goal. With Burnley’s Cort struggling with what appeared to be a hip injury, Bobby Zamora capitalised by cutting inside when one-on-one with the defender and firing low and hard at the bottom corner. Jensen did well to parry but Elm pounced on the rebound to record his first goal for Fulham. 2-0, game over. Zamora did appear to be offside in the buildup but the linesman missed the call yet again. Lets hope Fulham have not used up all the luck in one game.

Half time came and went and it wasn’t long before Fulham were 3 up. Zamora was fouled on the edge of the area and took the free kick, passing the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the goal leaving Jensen stretching. A malaise seemed to come over all the players at this point, Fulham realising the game was won and Burnley that it was lost. Fulham began to save energy for the weekend encounter with Notts County and it wasn’t long before Roy rung the changes with Okaka, Greening and Riise replacing Zamora, Simon Davies and Duff. Fulham looked dangerous on the break with Okaka’s pace and Riise recognised this fact, threading a good ball through for Okaka to run on to. Unfortunately Okaka’s shot was a rather tame effort with his right foot when he could have used his left, leading me to assume that maybe he is not so confident on his left side.

As the final whistle blew it was refreshing to know that the three points had been earned off the back of an excellent team performance. I fear for Burnley in the premier league as we were able to control the game all to easily, and as one Burnley fan put it on an internet forum “look like Brazil”.  From here Fulham have an interesting FA Cup encounter with Notts County at the weekend, and I fully expect to see the regulars rested. I have a feeling that Roy may start with Elm and Okaka up top with Riise on the wing which should be both entertaining and enlightening. Whatever happens, at least it now appears that Fulham have confirmed their place in the premier league for at least on more season, and I hope Burnley can do the same.

Bolton 0-0 Fulham: Fortunate, Fortunate Fulham

February 7, 2010

This match will certainly not feature in the pantheon of footballing history but it was a good result nonetheless.  Bobby Zamora joined the ranks of the injured with a 48hr flu virus meaning the Fulham frontline looked especially weak.  Whilst David Elm put in a good performance up top, showing off his excellent first touch, Erik Nevland easily had his worst game in a Fulham shirt.  I don’t usually question the wisdom of Roy Hodgson, but if I had the choice between a 32 yr old 5’9″ poacher or a 6’1″ powerhouse to play against Bolton I would certainly choose the latter. I would hope that this signals the end of Nevland as a starter, but I doubt it.

The game itself was scrappy. Bolton were certainly not scintillating but Fulham had decided that a point was enough, and they did not want to go for any more. Jonathan Greening nipped at the heels of any Bolton player who got near him, producing a large number of niggly fouls that went largely unpunished, creating an disjointed performance from the hosts. Bolton seemed happy to hoof it long to Davies (who had an excellent match) and go from there.  Schwarzer was the Fulham saviour, pulling off several excellent saves and generally controlling the box. When a Kevin Davies flick led to Mark Davies firing hard and low from around the penalty spot I was sure that it was all over for Fulham, only for Schwazer to get down and block with his legs and send the ball spinning up and off the bar to safety. His second super-human save was arguably better. As Chung-Yong Lee burst into the Fulham penalty area, Schwarzer stuck out an arm and diverted the ball away from goal and Lee to be cleared by Baird.

Fulham brought on Chris Smalling and Okaka up front for Elm and the ineffective Nevaland. I spent the remainder of the match daydreaming about a possible Smalling goal ( I think he has one in him before he leaves Fulham) and enjoyed Okakas energy and willingness to run at the opponents defence, one of which resulted in a free kick in a dangerous position (a la Dio Kamara against Villa in the great escape season). In truth Bolton should have won, first when Elmander was one on one with Schwarzer but contrived to screw it wide, and then more legitimately when Davies put the ball in the back of the net, only to have it ruled out for a push only Mark Clattenburg could see.

I get the feeling this was a big point for a squad that is being stretched to its limit, a bit of luck came Fulham’s way and is greatly received. If Fulham can continue their fine home form against Burnley on Tuesday night this will have been a great few weeks and should allow us the luxury of focusing on the various cup competitions we are still competing in.

Some Quick Transfer Thoughts

January 7, 2010

I love the January transfer window.  I know it makes little sense and can be dangerous for a team like Fulham, but I love the crazy speculation and overflowing BBC gossip column that awaits me each day.

Fulham have been linked with many names already this window, but the one that keeps popping up is Stefano Okaka. He is of course the promising young striker playing for Roma who is looking to move due to the recent arrival of one Luca Toni. We have already been able to catch a glimpse of him in the Europa league, and whilst he didn’t overly impress me at the cottage, he did score Roma’s second goal at the Stadio Olimpico in our highly controversial match in Rome.

I think Okaka would be a good addition on loan, especially if we have an inbuilt extension clause in the deal. He is definitely raw, but not only would he offer some competition to the excellent Bobby Zamora, he may also flourish under Roy’s tutelage. This seems very low risk and financially viable. Okaka would join compatriot Marcelo Trotta who joined us this summer so he might be able to adjust to life here more easily. My one reservation is that coming into the premier league, especially at his age, he would either struggle or not make a huge immediate impact and could receive criticism from the fans. I am certainly not expecting him to be some magical wonderkid, I just hope people temper their expectations. Extra points go to this potential transfer because Okaka is a bit of a football manager legend of previous years.

Other stories include the recent on featuring Jamie O’hara on the radar again. The stumbling block here would be the fact we seem to have tons of midfield options and a possible 3 club rule restriction. I personally would rather see us get some cover at the back as injuries have limited our options and whilst I think Kelly will settle in and start playing confidently sooner rather than later, I would like some cover/competition for Konchesky who is carrying an injury.

One final word, not so much to do with transfers: Brede Hangeland and his knee injury. I may be being overly pessimistic but I feel there is a hidden story in this. His knee appears to have flared up/got infected and there were mutterings that he has been plying through the pain for a while now. I don’t want to be alarmist, but so often with taller players these kind of injuries can become a problem. Having recently signed a new contract lets hope that he doesn’t become a player who spends more time on the physio’s table than on the pitch. I mention this because I follow the Boston Celtics and Kevin Garnett (an outsanding player) has been struggling with knee issues of his own. I know he is both older and plays a sport that is more demanding on the knees, but his recent struggles got us thinking about our very own big man Brede who does a lot of jumping himself.

The Misunderstanding of Jonathan Greening

December 9, 2009

Taking a moment to sidestep the Zamora debate, lets look at Jonathan Greening. Well not just him, but Fulham’s signings under Hodgson.

It is a Football fans duty to be impulsive, this is what creates atmosphere at grounds, makes people lose it when their team scores and makes football (and sport in general) so goddam interesting. However, acting on impulse is not something that should be done when it comes to transfers. In the words of Lloyd Grossman, ‘Lets look at the evidence’:

Jonathan Greening— He has come in for some stick lately from the Fulham faithful. For me this is a case of misunderstanding. I don’t think many Fulham fans would claim to have extensively followed the career of Greening. As Rich has shown over at CCN his role in the team passing wise,  is not that of  a Danny Murphy player, but like his role at West Brom, a recycler of the ball. However when he was pursued and then purchased by Roy, many (myself included) thought he was to be a cover for DM. He is cover, but not like for like cover. Despite Fulham having an excellent run of form with him in the team he is being dismissed as a waste of money. For me this is impulsive. He is settling into a team in the place of the captain- of course he is not going to have the same impact. What he has done is be solid and passed well (ie. not giving away the ball). The other reason he is misunderstood is because of the formation that Fulham play. Whilst watching the Sunderland game at the weekend the commentator kept banging on about how Duff and Dempsey cutting inside was confusing the Sunderland defence. This got me thinking. I think that at the moment, with Fulham’s major creator and influential captain out of the picture Roy is playing a fluid 4-4-2 formation that almost ends up 4-2-2-2. Duff and Dempsey are taking the creative strain both out wide and in the middle, changing Greening’s role and almost forcing him to sit deeper. This coupled with Roy’s instructions to maintain shape in the middle and not go running off like a Jimmy Bullard limits what Greening can do. Impulsively, on first glance, he looks sluggish and nervous. I believe he is fulfilling his role almost to perfection. He could add a few more forward passes down the middle into his repertoire but he is doing fine.

Dickson Etuhu— Again, many Fulham fans impulsively labelled him ‘rubbish’ early doors.  Rumours of his nickname at Sunderland ‘Two touch Etuhu’ spread and he came in for a lot of criticism. But after a bedding in period and some of Roy’s tried and trusted training, he became first choice to partner Murphy. His goal at Man City appeared to win over the rest of his critics and now people miss his presence in the midfield.

Chris Baird–Possibly the best example of impulsive criticism. When he arrived he had just been voted player of the year at Southampton. Within a few weeks he was being derided as Fulham’s worst ever signing. Impulsively we took one look at him, playing at right back, and thought we understood what he was all about. When Roy did not ship him out with the other dead wood, we should have cottoned on. Fast forward to this year and he has become central to recent success. His performances in the Europa league alongside Smalling have been excellent. His deputising in the centre of midfield crucial. Yes he cannot play right back, but a little more digging shows that he is a good utility player who is a perfect fit for Fulham; he will sit on the bench and not complain, but has the confidence to come in and stake a claim for a permanent place in the team.

Bobby Zamora— I didn’t want to mention him but oh well. Similar pattern to above, but he is still divisive. Impulsively we saw a striker who could not finish the most simple of chances. But with time we came to recognise his overall contribution to the team, why Roy stuck with him and his consistently high work rate. Personally, I love the guy. I have even started to warm to his mistakes and inability to be a consistent finisher. If his form keeps up I will happily jump on the ‘Bobby for England’ bandwagon.

Basically all I have said is that Football fans are by their nature impulsive and therefore are too quick to judge something that is a bit more nuanced than first believed. I have been liable to be impulsive as the next fan, especially in the case of Baird, but I am trying to take a more holistic and relaxed approach to my support of Fulham. As the transfer window pulls into view we should bear this impulsiveness in mind as new signings come and bed in to Fulham FC, especially if they are slow starters.

Sunday Update 2: Fulham 1-0 Sunderland

December 6, 2009

Another home match, another 1-0. It wasn’t only the scoreline that was oddly similar but the performance as well. Fulham started brightly, passing the ball with ease around a struggling Sunderland side who were forced to field Kieran Richardson as a makeshift left back. I had commented before the game on TIFF when I found out that Richardson was playing left back that Zamora may come wide and assert his dominance over him. This certainly happened, but Zamora also dominated the entire Sunderland back four in a majestic performance. But is was a Richardson failing that was to aid with the Fulham goal. Not pressurising Duff, meant that he could lay the ball back to Paintsil who delivered an inch perfect cross for Zamora, ghosting in between the Sunderland central pairing, to head home. A well worked pleasing goal which reminded me of the one Man City scored here last season, a Zabaleyta cross met by a Benjani header.

As the first half wore on, more chances came and went. Zamora hit the bar with a good effort and Fulop beaten,  and Nevland should have done better when the ball dropped for him the six yard box, but he hit it tamely at Fulop in the Sunderland goal. The rest of Fulham’s chances were limited to speculative long range efforts from Dempsey and Duff, both of whom could not hit the target.

At half time, one wondered how Fulham were only 1 up. As the second half got under way, Fulham reverted to Hoof ball and ceceeded the midfield to Sunderland in a fashion similar to that on wednesday night.  A poor Konchesky back pass nearly resulted in a goal for Kenywe Jones but Schwarzer stifled his toe poke. This rejuvinated Sunderland and as the pressure mounted, Fulham got off scott-free as Bent (who I think is a top player) contrived to miss two excellent chances. The second of the aforementioned chances should really have been put away as the ball dropped to his feet in the penalty area only for him to blaze over. But Fulham held firm. Sunderland bombarded the box with cross after cross for Hangeland to imperiously head clear. The second half performance was not quite as poor as on Wednesday and Fulham won, even if it was squeaky bum time as the game wore on.

The stats told an interesting tale. Fulham had 13 shots to Sunderlands 7, but only got 2 on target to Sunderland’s 4. All of the long range shots that come to nothing are reflected here. Dempsey again proving he should perhaps stick to running at defences, playing others in and finishing from inside the area. All in all, I feel that Fulam deserved the win with Bobby Zamora the standout MoM. Calls for him to be included in the England squad may be far fetched at this point in time, but if this form keeps up till the end of the season and he bags upwards of 10 goals, he should be in consideration. Especially if Heskey is not playing regularly. With the tough games coming up over Christmas, Fulham better sort out their inability to play solidly for 90 minutes, otherwise our points tally and goal difference will suffer.

Sunday update 1: Fulham 1-0 CSKA Sofia

December 6, 2009

I enjoy going to watch Fulham with friends who do not support them as it gives me the chance to get a different take on the team without loyalty getting in the way. This is one of the many things that is great about the Europa league (my non-fulham supporting friends actually want to come). I also enjoy the fact that whilst it would be good to progress through the group stages, it is not as ‘do or die’ as the premier league.

I begin with this sentiment because one of my friends who came offered an excellent insight during the match. On one of the counter attacks Fulham had, Bobby Zamora, instead of simply laying it across goal for an onrushing Gera,  lost possession and Fulham were denied a goal scoring opportunity. This lead to several negative comments from the fans seated around me, including ‘Zamora has has a stinker’. At this my friend and I looked at each other in bemusement and he said ‘ I guess it depends whether or not you understand the game as to how you think Zamora played tonight’. Whilst it might have been a slightly harsh comment it really struck me as true. In the first half Zamora had played an absolute blinder, with excellent touches and flick ons, and generally harassing the CSKA defence.  The second was not so good, but I put this down to a combination of tiredness and poor service and suport from the midfield.Zamora has been the most divisive Fulham player over the last 18 months, but this season he is flourishing. He may not be able to finish on a consistent basis but he is a damn good player.

As for the match itself, the trend of Fulham only putting in 45 mins of good play worryingly continued.  After Murphy missing a penalty ( I know, when does that happen?) Fulham pressed hard against a very poor CSKA side.  When Riise picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area, burst wide and lashed in an excellent cross, Gera popped up amongst a crowd of defenders to head home. A well worked goal and smooth finish. Things were looking up.  For the remainder of the half Fulham attacked relentlessly with Davies and Gera going close, both perhaps should have done better.

Then the second half. CSKA came out and looked a much better side. Fulham could not get the ball. When Michel Platini was brought on to many a laugh I had flashbacks to his goal in sofia. Suddenly Fulham looked hurried in possession and nervous. CSKA were looking the more dangerous side, but lacked a cutting edge. Several chances came and went and it looked as though Fulham would survive. Nerves could have been settled had Fulham put away one of the many counter attacking chances that presented themselves in the second half but it wasn’t to be. But in the end, defensive solidity shone through and Fulham survived to hold on to a crucial 1-0 victory.

I thought that Smalling looked assured in the first half but not so good after the break. This must be partly down to him switching sides to the left and struggling as he has a weak left foot.  Next time we see him I think it will be against Swindon and I am sure he will put in a good performance. After Bobby Z, the best player on the pitch for me was Riise. He was everywhere and looked very assured. An astute pickup for the europa league by Roy.

All in all a ground out win, but a win none the less. Basel will be very interesting!