HEAD MAN: Fulham's Hugo Rodallega scores the winner for Fulham
AFTER GOING seven games without winning Fulham returned to winning ways as they beat a resilient Newcastle United 2-1 at Craven Cottage. Straight from the kick off in the first minute Alexander Kacanklic was put through on goal but Danny Simpson managed to put him off and the Fulham man shot wide.
Newcastle found their groove and in the 16th minute after Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa interchanged passes but Ben Arfa’s final ball to Ba was overplayed, which allowed Mark Schwarzer to come out and gather the ball.
A minute later Damien Duff passed to Hugo Rodallega who took the ball on his chest but his shot went wide. On 18 minutes Fulham took the lead. Rodallega passed the ball to Duff, who crossed to Steve Sidwell. Sidwell’s shot went in off the underside of the bar via a deflection.
Fulham should have made it two a minute later as Dimitar Berbatov went through one on one with Tim Krul, but the keeper stood up for as long as possible and saved Berbatov’s shot with his right hand.
Newcastle started to probe in search of an equaliser. Davide Santon saw his shot saved. On 31 minutes Fabricio Coloccini headed goalwards from a corner but Sacha Riether cleared off the line with a header. Riether was to repeat the feat in the 44th minute as he cleared Demba Ba’s header from a corner. Fulham led 1-0 at half time.
In the second half the game ebbed and flowed as both sides created chances. Newcastle went in search of the equaliser and it came in the 53rd minute. Vurnon Anita passed to Ben Arfa on the edge of Fulham’s 18-yard box and the Fulham defenders anticipated that he was going to cross the ball into the box.
However, Ben Arfa not only took them by surprise but also caught out Schwarzer with a left foot curler that took a wicked deflection and looped into the net. It was no more than Newcastle deserved on the balance of play and at this stage it appeared there would only be one winner as they were in the ascendancy.
On the hour mark John Arne Riise broke on the left and crossed to Rodallega who chested the ball down to Kacaniklic but he could not connect properly. A minute later Berbatov put Sidwell through but Krul saved his shot.
In the 63rd minute Cheick Tiote brought down substitute Ashkan Dejagah outside the Newcastle box. From the resultant free kick, Damien Duff’s cross into the box was met by the unmarked Rodallega with a powerful header which flew past Krul for what proved to be the winner.
On 71 minutes Coloccini hit a shot from the edge of the Fulham box, which beat Schwarzer but hit the post. Rodallega then had a shot saved. In the 74thminute Dejagah delightfully back heeled the ball to Berbatov who then found Sidwell in space, but he shot over.
Shola Ameobi, Ba and Jonas Gutierrez had shots saved within a minute of each other as Newcastle went looking for another equaliser but Fulham held firm to record their first win in eight games.
After Newcastle’s excellent finish last season, it seems strange that they have now gone seven months without an away win and have lost five of their last six games. Their manager Alan Pardew said afterwards: “I am worried that we are not picking up enough points.
"It is pretty evident that the performances have improved but we need to concentrate in the next game against Man City to get some points. Our attacking play was good tonight but we have got no points to show for it.”
On Berbatov he said: “Everything he seemed to pluck out of the sky died on his toe. He was special tonight. He was a real problem. He is a class act when he is in the mood and the TV cameras are here!”
Fulham boss Martin Jol said of his star man Berbatov: “He linked us up and kept us together today. He covered more ground than ever before. He is not moaning or sulking.
"I am satisfied with him. For me the most important thing is that after losing Dempsey and Dembele, plus Danny Murphy, I am very happy he came to this club because otherwise we could have ended up with a little problem.”