Posts Tagged ‘Damien Duff’

Spurs 3-1 Fulham: Close, but no cigar…

March 24, 2010

Well, that is the joy of cup competitions. It is all or nothing, and unfortunately Fulham have walked away with nothing.  I felt that the scoreline flattered Spurs to be honest. Fulham had won the first half and were looking to consolidate in the second, but Spurs took their chances and here we are.

The game started fairly anonymously with both sides feeling each other out. Fulham looked very comfortable hustling a sleepy Spurs side off the ball and putting together some very good passing moves. The WHL crowd was silent and all that was coming through on the TV was the noise of the Fulham fans singing their hearts out, tucked away in the corner.  And it was Fulham who took the lead after a good spell of play. With Duff running through the centre at the defence, Zamora cut inside from the right hand side, pointed to where he wanted the ball and received a slide rule pass from Duff. If anyone had any remaining worries about Zamora’s composure in front of goal they were swept aside as he took the ball in his step and hit a beautiful curling finish into the bottom left hand corner around the outstretched Gomes. A very well worked move against one of the best defences in the premier league and Fulham were in front. This seemed to galvanise Spurs who started attacking with more purpose with Schwarzer saving a good backheeled effort from Eidur GudJohnsen at his near post.

Half time came and went and it was obvious that Redknapp was not going to let his team produce another fairly insipid performance in the second half. They came out fired up and with added impetus from the two new additions at half time in the form of Huddlestone and Bentley. And it was Bentley who was going to have the decisive impact on the match. Kelly gave away a foul near the touchline as he upended Bale, and Bentley stepped up and curled a cross in that avoided the crowded area and found itself in the net. There were questions of offside as Corluka looked to be distracting Schwarzer but the goal stood and Spurs were off and running. It was fairly obvious that Fulham were in for a battering for the remainder of the half, and it was a question on whether Fulham could nick a goal on the break. When Corluka went off with an ankle injury I thought that Fulham might have a chance, but on came Roman Pavlyuchenko and he was to be the real difference.

Spurs started dominating and with the improvement in the quality of the crossing, it was only a matter of time before another chance fell spurs way. Bentley crossed deep to the back post, Pavlyuchenko peeled off of Kelly, who missed his header by inches, and powered home a fierce left foot volley.  Before Fulham could settle and try to regroup, Spurs struck again. Modric poked a ball through to Gudjohnsen who took it round a flailing Schwarzer and passed it into an empty net. Game Over. Roy made changes, bringing on Okaka and Dempsey but it was too late. The game petered out with no real meaningful chances at either end and Spurs progress.

Fulham haven’t really had the rub of the green against Spurs this season, but Spurs deserved to win as they took their chances and controlled the game when it mattered.

A few other thoughts from the game:

1) Bentley was never man of the match. His first goal was almost as fortuitous as the one against Fulham in the league and whilst his assist for the second goal was decent, it was Pavlyuchenko who turned it into an excellent goal. Other than that he looked very average, mainly because he had absolutely no pace.

2) I hope Spurs go on and win the damn trophy now. If they lose to Chelsea in the Final then I don’t think I could forgive them. I will certainly now be throwing the weight of my support behind them now.

3) Kelly should not be scapegoated. Yes he did not play outstandingly, but if Baird had played at right back then Bale would have had even more of a field day.

4) I generally don’t believe that the media is out to get us, but the commentary in the second half with the commentators drooling over Spurs was quite offputting. There was none of the same for Fulham in the first half, just ‘that was a good passing move’ etc. etc.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, A win away at Hull would be nice, and then the real fun against Wolfsburg.

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Fulham 4-1 Juventus

March 20, 2010

Unbelievable. I have only gotten round to writing up a match report now because I still can’t quite believe it. I keep finding myself thinking, wait a minute, we did beat Juventus and we did overturn a 3 goal deficit. Phenomenal.

The match itself was somewhat bizarre. Firstly, kickoff was at six meaning that there was a rush to get to the game itself. Having gotten there early, I sat with my brother soaking up what I thought would be our final European experience for who knows how long. As the clock ticked towards six and the stadium slowly filled, the anticipation amongst the fans built to a peak. By the time the players ran out, I was raring to go. Game on.

Or not. It is not easy to deflate an entire stadium during supposedly the biggest game of Fulham’s history, but Juventus did just that. A Salihamidzic cross was not cleared and Trezeguet applied a simple finish. Bugger. Oh well, I told myself, it has been fun.

But this is Fulham under Roy Hodgson, so there was no need to worry that Fulham would not at least put up a fight. With the crowd now beginning to rise from the deflation of the first Juve goal, that man Bobby Zamora struck. Shrugging off Cannavaro, he cushioned a ball suppied by Koncheksy off his chest, and powered it into the left hand corner of the net leaving Chimenti with no chance. Now it was game on.

With Craven Cottage rocking, the pressure appeared to be getting to even the most experienced of the Juve players. A smart flick-on by Bobby Zamora put Gera through, only for him to be pulled down by Cannavaro. A red card swiftly followed (slightly controversially) and all of a sudden hopes of a result gained momentum. Juventus were now without their talismanic skipper and their already patched up defence became even more shaky. Antonio Candreva, who had looked dangerous up until this point, was hauled off for Zdenek Grygera and it was advantage Fulham.  Zamora hit a peach of a free kick with his left foot but Chimenti was equal to the challenge and palmed the ball round the post for a corner. Two more chances followed in quick succession with Davies hitting the post from a free kick and Etuhu doing the same with a header. I have to admit, with both of these chanced gone I started to feel that this might be one of those days.

As half time approached, it was an excellent team move that secured a crucial second goal. Bobby Zamora (again) chipped the ball over a static Juve defence, Simon Davies hit a low cross into the six yard box and Zoltan Gera arrived with impeccable timing to apply the finish. It now seemed to me as though Fulham had all of the momentum and were going to do the unthinkable. I guess the best way to describe it is as if ‘the weight of history’ ( the arguement the Communists used to justify their movement) was behind Fulham. The guy next to me turned and said ‘we only need one more!’, ‘we can get two, C’mon Fulham!’ was my response.

As the second half started the crowd were really having an influence on the game. The Juventus players looked rattled and Fulham were taking control. It wasn’t long before another breakthrough came. Duff was released into the right hand side of the penalty area but his cross came off the arm of Diego. The referee pointed to the spot and Gera dutifully stepped up to take the kick. As the crowd held their breath, Gera dispatched the penalty, sending Chimenti the wrong way. The crowd erupted Fulham were suddenly very much favourites to win the tie. Whether this could happen in normal time was another matter.

After Gera’s goal, the game settled once again as Juventus struggled to hold on in order to force penalties. Hodgson then made the substitution which changed the match. With Juventus pinned in their own half, Hodgson brought off Stephen Kelly, who had an excellent match, for Clint Dempsey and shifted Simon Davies to right back. This gave Duff more attacking support and helped to really apply pressure to the left flank of Juventus.

But is was Clint Dempsey who was to make the difference with what can only be described as an outrageous goal.  Having controlled a pass from Etuhu with his back to goal, Dempsey turned and let fly with an angled chip from the edge of the 18 yard box.  The ball hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity before nestling into the top corner, over the head of an exasperated Chimenti. UNBELIEVABLE. The crowd erupted as Dempsey charged behind the goal, celebrating like a man possessed. With that goal, Dempsey had just inserted himself in Fulham folklore.

Nervous moments followed as a Juventus goal would have knocked Fulham out, but it was the visitors who lost their heads. Zebina saw red for a petulant kick on Duff in the corner and Felipe Melo was booked for a similar infringement . A succession of free kicks killed the game and as the whistle blew it hit home, Fulham were through.

Amazing, Fulham had not only beaten Juventus over two legs, but had done so by overcoming a 3 goal deficit. As I walked back to the station, tired and drunk on emotion, I passed an older couple who had been to the match. As I walked by, I overheard them saying ‘March 18th 2010, the night Fulham beat Juventus 4-1, and WE were there’. I turned round and shot them a huge smile, which was generously reciprocated. I too had been there. What a night.

Fulham 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

March 7, 2010

On  the face of it a decent result, but I found it frustrating to say the least. The last thing we need is more games, but that is what we have got, and hopefully Fulham can pull something out of the bag at WHL.

The first half felt a bit too much like playing Shakthar away. We gave Tottenham too much respect, ceded possesion and after an initial bright start to the game let Tottenham take over. Now, Tottenham are a good team, but they are not as good as Shakthar going forwardand we should have pressed them harder further up the pitch, especially without Jermain Defoe offering them a pacy outlet. Defensively we were phenomenal once again, but it was worrying that at home, we were not slightly more adventurous.  Much of this was down to the absence of the heartbeat of the midfield, Danny Murphy. Greening came in and whilst he retained possession well, was too timid in pushing forward. Dickson Etuhu had a barnstorming game defensively, denying Modric the time and space he craved, which probably was the reason Modric really failed to have an influence. On the other side, Palacios was dominant, perfoming the Etuhu role better and with more attacking spirit. Zamora was excellent once again, but was too often isolated with only Gera in support.

The second half was an improvement, with Fulham and Tottenham both attacking with more vigour and the game  opening up. Gera had a good header saved by Gomes from point blank range, and a Duff shot from outside the area was turned around the post by that man Gomes again. Other than that it was a relatively quiet day for both keepers. I would question why Roy brought on Elm when Okaka was ready and waiting. The Swedish giant had little/no impact as a sub and I would have fancied Okaka to give Bassong a bit of trouble with his direct running and extra flair.

For me, the reason Fulham struggled to get men forward was as much about Greening’s lack of through balls and forward passes as Gareth Bale. Redknapp removed any defensive responsibilities by putting Bale in midfield and this seemed to make him an increasingly dangerous prospect. I like Chris Baird, but time and time again Duff had to really help him out with Bale meaning that one of our most forward minded and creative players was stuck in defensive mode. I believe that a fit John Paintsil would have shackled Bale much like he has both Christiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba over the last few seasons. Special mention should go to both Bassong and Dawson, both of whom were in fantastic form, leading me to question why Dawson is not ahead of Matthew Upson for England. Dawson is the captain of spurs and has held the fort admirably whilst both Woodgate and King have been injured, he is simply a different player this season.

So 0-0 a frustrating result for Fulham, Spurs must now be comfortable favourites to go through. But hey, this is the FA Cup and this team is managed by Roy Hodgson. If we can get a result in Basel and Donetsk, why not across London? A trip to Wembley and a game against struggling Portsmouth awaits the victor.

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??

Relief: Fulham 1-0 Portsmouth

February 4, 2010

Going into this game, Fulham had one of the worst form records in the league having lost the last five games. Roy Hodgson’s threadbare squad was being pushed to the limit and even with a few deadline day additions there was a great deal of nervousness from the fans prior to kickoff. Were Fulham going to be dragged into a relegation battle? For many, this match was going to be a litmus test.

Fulham passed the test, but certainly not with flying colours. The first 45 minutes were a very nervy affair, with wave after wave of Portsmouth attack being repelled by the now restored duo of Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes. Fulham could not get hold of the ball and Portsmouth went close on several occasions, most notably with Piquionne firing at Schwarzer from a tight angle after “beating” the offside trap.  O’Hara and Prince Boateng ( Both of whom I would love to see at the cottage in the summer) peppered the Fulham goal from range and the atmosphere in the ground was tense; it felt like it was going to be a long night.

However, Fulham gradually got themselves back into the match with Okaka missing a glaring opportunity to head Fulham in front from point blank range. Better passing returned and once half time rolled around you fancied Fulham to get something from the match. The second half was really all Fulham.  Kelly was hauled off by Hodgson, having had a pretty awful game, and Kagisho Dikacoi brought on with Baird moving to right back. I feel for Kelly, he was really trying but nothing was coming off. With the added steel of KD in the midfield, Murphy came to the fore and was able to get his passing game back up to nearer his usual high standards. With the time ticking away, Fulham got the goal they needed.  Belhadj dwelled on the ball and Duff was there to challenge, fire a low hard cross across the face of goal which was deflected into the path of Greening who passed it into a practically unguarded net. Fulham got a bit nervy as they tried to maintain their one goal lead, but in the end there was little to worry about and a crucial win was in the bag.

Observations:

Duff– What a match he had. For some reason this was the first time I could really appreciate what he brings to the team. He was everywhere and by far the most dangerous Fulham player on the pitch.  He has been an excellent signing and he looks to be really enjoying his football despite looking like the worlds angriest Irishman whenever the camera focused on his face.

Shorey– Fantastic debut by the left back. Composed both in defence and attack with some solid crossing mixed in, it looks like we have the ideal replacement for Konch. I don’t know what Martin O’Neill did to him at villa but hopefully he will continue to regain his form with us.

Okaka– Soild debut from the youngster. He didn’t know the definition of giving up last night, preferring to charge around the pitch and run with the ball whenever possible. Once he gets acclimatized to the English game fully (there were a few examples of him going to ground a bit easily and looking for the foul) he will be a huge benefit to the team. I like the idea of him and Zamora softening up the oppo defense before Nevland is unleashed in the last 20mins to work some magic.

Baird/Dikacoi– Baird was very good last night. He started in central mid before moving to right back. He is simply a player transformed. I think he will now get a run at right back (his forward runs were hilarious last night as he overlapped Duff; he seemed to be absolutely busting a gut, and his crossing good too). Dikacoi impressed me yet again. I think that his presence really allows Murphy to concentrate on being the playmaker, much like Etuhu. He has really long legs and when he goes into tackles always either disrupts the other player or steals the ball. Against Bolton on saturday his presence could be crucial.

Fulham 3-0 Manchester United

December 20, 2009

In March of this year, Fulham put in an excellent display against a 10-man Utd to earn a hard-fought victory that helped propel us into 7th in the league. Who would have thought a famous victory could be replicated a mere 9 months later? Before the match pundits were predicting a Man Utd win or at the most a draw, usually backing up their comments with lazy nods towards the results of previous seasons. For me, United were in line for a beating like this. How they escaped with a win against Wolfsburg astounded me but they have been fairly average this season and with the injury list at such a length things were going to get worse before they started to get better.

However, Fulham played out of their skins and completely dominated Utd all over the pitch. Even with their defensive frailties, Utd still had a very potent attack but this was neutralised by an excellent Baird and the usual suspects in the back 5.  Utd were limited to speculative long-range efforts, embarrassing considering the riches they have going forward.  Fulham were unstoppable going forward with Zoltan Gera playing ‘in the hole’ behind the rejuvenated Bobby Zamora, and Duff and Dempsey making dangerous runs forward.

The first goal came just after Kuszczak pulled off an outstanding save to deny Gera after Zamora nonchalantly chested the ball to Gera who looked to apply the finish with an accurate side foot. I have to admit, with Kuszczak apparently on form I was fearing another Vito Mannone performance against us. Luckily this wasn’t to be. Murphy robbed a poor Paul Scholes in midfield, took a few strides, set himself and then blasted home from 2o yards out. As Rich over at CCN has pointed out, this was due to a clever piece of deception by Murphy. This sent Fulham fans into a state o Euphoria and the match ebbed and flowed until half time with Fulham very much in the ascendency.

As the second half kicked off I was wondering whether our lack of ruthlessness in not putting away Utd in the first half would come back bite us a la Burnley.  My fears were allayed as duff swung an excellent right footed (!!) cross deep for Dempsey to head back across goal and Zamora to apply the finish. Utd were left in shambles and the win was sealed. Alex Ferguson changed things around, bringing on Wellbeck and Berbatov. This made for a brief Utd resurgence before Damien Duff killed the match. A free kick from the half way line was swung into the box, Zamora again chested it down expertly for Duff to power home on the volley.  Three quality goals to top off an excellent performance.

Overall an excellent team performance. Stand-out players were Zamora (again), Duff, Dempsey (who defended as well as he attacked), Murphy and Gera. I think we have finally found the position Gera revels in and I whilst I do not believe he should oust a fit Andy Johnson from the team, I think we may have found a new formation to make us more potent on the road. What really stands out for me from this game is that Utd did not score. I thought that Owen was awful and should not be going to South Africa and Rooney cut a frustrated figure, running all over the pitch and collecting the ball from left back and central defence. Credit to Hodgson’s defensive solidity that was derided by some as too negative for much of last year.

Fulham now go into next weeks clash full of confidence and with a full week of rest and uninterrupted training behind them. Tottenham did not play particularly well against Blackburn this weekend so Fulham should be confident of getting a result. The match will be tough but Fulham are at home and players are returning from injury, so there is every reason to be optimistic.

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.