Match Report 2001-02 - Fulham (a)
20 mins: A poor defensive header by Robbie Elliott but the room given to Saha wasn't his fault. However, it was a fantastic strike which didn't really give Shay an earthly. 0-1
28 mins: Defenders just stood and admired Collins, Saha and Malbranque lay the ball on to Legwinski who rifled it low past Given. 0-2
Half time: Fulham 2 Newcastle 0
65 mins: After a neat build-up, Solano worked the ball out well to Aaron Hughes and the delivery was perfect for Speed to run on and head into the bottom corner. 1-2
70 mins: A messy corner that took a near post deflection off one of our lot. Barry Hales was first to react and headed in from two yards. 1-3
Full time: Fulham 3 Newcastle 1
"I don't have a phobia about coming to London and I hope my players don't have. We talk about the situation but it somehow just goes wrong. I just can't explain it."
"We were quite confident, but somehow it just went wrong. I thought we were well on the way to getting a result in the first 20 minutes. Saha's goal wasn't made by any clever play, as he just picked a loose ball in midfield.
"We didn't press him and he had five seconds to turn on it and get a sight of goal. He hit a majestic shot and it was a marvellous goal. Robbie Elliott got caught for their second goal.
"At 2-0 up, they became rampant and we had to defend stoutly not to go in at half-time 3-0 down.
"Our goal gave us hope but another lapse in concentration from a corner then cost us dear."
"I don't think there was one yellow card today where I could go to one of my players afterwards and reproach them." [Errr, perhaps Shearer's dissent Bobby?? Or does Al have different set of rules from Craig Bellamy]
About the penalty:
"Shearer was bundled off the ball attempting to lay it into an empty net. Their man took his legs completely and could have been sent off."
"At least other results have gone decently for us. We're only down from fourth to six. We've Derby at home next week and just have to start again."
Former Mag Louis Saha said:
"I am happy because we played very well against a very strong team today. We had a plan to deal with Robert and Bellamy but it was up to my players to make it work.
"We now have three wins in a row and the only difference is that we have cut out the mistakes which cost us points earlier in the season."
Fulham boss Jean Tigana commented:
"December is a big month as we have seven games. We need a big squad, and if it's possible to buy one good, young player - why not?
"I would like my team to finish between eighth and 12th, but the priority for the club is to stay at the top level. My vision is to get 41 points. We'll try to get those points - and then it's possible to dream about more than that.
"We try and play very well, but it's difficult to win all the time. Many of my players have never played at the top level, and you need to play to learn.
"It was a big mistake to lose points against Charlton and Ipswich (both draws), but now my team is playing very well. I'm happy today because we played a very strong team, and when we led 2-0 I was very relaxed on the bench."
No need to remind you how many London games we have gone without a victory, just see any other report of this game.... Alan Shearer's personal London nightmare continued with his penalty miss. His last goal in the capital for us was against Wimbledon in April 1999 and only two of his 97 United goals were in London - the other being at Chelsea in November 1996. Gary Speed's goal was our 500th Premiership strike and the defeat was our 100th.
It's difficult to know where to begin with this one. Perhaps the chant that usually follows a male streaker's intrusion provides the best question to ask, "What the f***in' hell was that?" Strangely, the odd assortment in the away section at Craven Cottage never sang it when the naked interloper, lolloped out of the visiting terrace in injury time. Probably because they knew that the fully-dressed blokes on the pitch wearing our blue away kit were the ones that need to answer it.
We were simply awful. It was a West Ham-like performance and in truth another 3-0 defeat was probably all we deserved. Gary Speed's well-worked and executed goal certainly didn't fit in with the rest of our performance. Aaron Hughes' excellent first-time cross that found Speed's head was a complete stranger in a match where our final ball was abysmal. Hughes and Robbie Elliott found the keeper time after time while Nobby Solano and Laurent Robert usually found the terracing or Alain Goma's head.
But on an odd day on the banks of the Thames we actually started the better of the two sides. Up until Fulham's opener we probably had the bulk of the play and the clearer chances. Speed and Shearer both had headers that they couldn't quite steer on target before Craig Bellamy should have given us the lead. Goma slipped and allowed Bellamy to cut in from the right. As he bore down on goal Van der Sar slipped and the extra half second should have allowed our top scorer enough room to lift the ball over the scrabbling Dutchman. Unfortunately, Bellamy did his usual and found the torso of an advancing keeper with unerring accuracy.
A minute later Robbie Elliott made a mess of a clearing header and Legwinski had oodles of time and space to find Louis Saha who himself had a United-free acre to play in. His look-up and lob was superb and inevitably his goal-drought came to an end against the club that quite rightly, was failed to lash out silly money for a player who had done very little in his spell on Tyneside. Apart from the Blackburn FA cup goal and another at home against Coventry little Louis did not merit the high asking price for a striker who would have been about 6th in line for a first team place. Whatever happened last season and the start of this season or indeed his goal in this game shouldn't cloud that issue.
After that we went to pieces in an alarming fashion. Our midfield and defence were in complete disarray as the Cottagers swept through us at will. The second goal was a prime example as Collins, Saha and Malbranque cut through us like a furnace-heated samurai sword through butter. Legwinski finished off the move with a low shot that had enough power to beat Shay Given, although Shay was close to getting a hand on it.
How Fulham failed to extend their lead is something of a mystery. The remainder of the first half was painful viewing. Fulham had so much room on the ball it was frightening, while our players were closed down buy at least two white shirts usually before they had time to take a first touch. The man in green was also doing us no favours, liberally dishing out yellow cards to our lot and waving play on when similar transgressions were committed by those in white. However, to blame much on Eddie Wolstenholme would be letting those significantly more guilty off the hook.
At half-time we had the usual tombola turn-off, with Johnny Haynes and that bloke who'll never get a passport making an absolute meal of things. Patiently waiting were five youngsters from each set of fans to take penalties against a Fulham under 13 keeper. To be fair to the goalie he appeared to show no home bias and the United youngsters ran out 2-1 winners much to the delight of the away section. It was way after 4 o'clock by the time the players returned but the break did little to change things.
We started reasonably well, but another Solano cross deep into the Putney End once again broke up our momentum. Hughes and O'Brien then got in a terrible tangle at the back and Saha was through on goal. Some reports suggest the ball luckily hit Shay's elbow but don't you believe them - it was a fantastic save from Seamus to keep us in the game.
Our goal came out of the blue, really, as we moved the ball around with speed and precision and Hughes' cross was perfect for Gary Speed to power home one of his trademark headers. But once more we managed to shoot ourselves in the foot by giving away a sloppy third. A corner from the right appeared to come off Hughes at the near post and Barry Hales was unmarked two yards from goal to head in the killer goal. Any chance of a famous fightback was realistically gone. Clarky had already entered the fray, replacing John Collins, and was given a suitable reception by the United fans. When Hales scored he simply turned and walked slowly back into his own half - no Dirty Don histrionics from wor Clarky.
The more inebriated on the standing terrace began to make their own entertainment and that dying art of standing on crash barriers was briefly resurrected. Until, that is, four or five of the Met's finest went wading in to put an end to it all. It was just like old times as heavy-handed policing caused more harm than good and United followers suddenly realised they had weight of numbers against the boys-in-fluorescent yellow. Scuffles ensued but once the CS Gas sprays came out there was only going to be one winner....
An arsehole paraded himself along the edge of the final row of seats singing "Swing low, sweet chariot" for some unknown reason. Stewards resisted the temptation to take up suggestions to push him off but they probably should have given that this was the bloke who later appeared bollock-naked on the pitch.
All that remained was the penalty pantomime. It was a shock to see it given and TV re-runs later showed what a diabolical decision it was. Shearer has scored with worse penalties and Van der Sar took advantage of his two steps forward to make an excellent save. The referee completed his comedy of errors by failing to punish Goma's blatant foul on Shearer as Al was about to turn in the rebound.
We started to knock the ball about quite well once the contest was over - probably more of a reflection on Fulham allowing us a wee bit more time and space - but subs Distin, LuaLua or Ameobi did nothing to suggest we could match the referee's sense of injustice by snatching anything from this one.
It's not fair to expect this side to put in performances as good as the Villa one for 38 games in a season but just two in a row would be a start. Things in the psychological department obviously require attention to cure our consistency problems. Hughes and Elliott are suffering badly in their full-back positions at the moment. Neither look comfortable on the ball and both are being panicked into hasty hoofs forward. They have Solano and Robert ahead of them and if they both have a couple of players marking them, then there must be room inside for Speed and Lee. It's not the lofted balls from the back that Bellamy find most useful. O'Brien and Dabizas can do a job but they look horribly exposed when those around them neglect their defensive responsibilities.
On a good day we are definitely a top six
side going forward but when when we are on the back-foot we look
startlingly clueless. Either Bobby needs to instill a bit of steel and
confidence into existing personnel or he needs to strengthen it with new
faces. Hopefully Rob Lee's replacement will arrive sooner rather than