Fulham 2-0 Bolton Wanderers

Ha ha. What crisis?

Playing the league’s bottom team at a time like this was always likely to be one of those tricky games. On the one hand, you would rather be playing a bad team than a good one; on the other, lose this one… doesn’t bear thinking about.

Anyway, it didn’t happen, owing to two marvellous goals involving Bryan Ruiz’s wand of a left foot. Wand? Wand. The man can do some seriously interesting things with it.

The first came after Dembele set him off down the right. Ruiz checked onto his left and pinged a cross onto Clint Dempsey’s head. Dempsey’s header was excellent. A very pleasing goal indeed.

Moments later we got another. Ruiz was set free by Dempsey and, faced with Jaskalaainen 1 on 1, scooped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper. From where we were sitting the ball seemed certain to drop halfway up the Putney End terrace, but no, down it came. A quite extraordinary finish. What a player, we gasped, shaking our heads in disbelief.

2-0, as we know, is not a safe scoreline, but while Bolton are better than Odense, Fulham weren’t going to mess this one up. The second half was a little flat, and we’d have all preferred a third goal to allow full relaxation, but the result was a good one and just what the doctor ordered.

Most pleasing were the contributions of Danny Murphy – visibly encouraging his teammates (he’s been a little grumpy lately but perhaps sensed that leadership was required) – and of the front four. Andy Johnson missed a couple of good chances, but led the line well and worked well with the tricky three behind him.

And it’s that three that we must be most pleased about. Today it felt like their team. Sure, Ruiz is a little behind the other two in terms of settling in, but he’s part of what we need to be and has already given us plenty of magic. Dembele… it feels like it’s becoming the man, the player opposing teams will make plans to stop. Dempsey is hard to stop, too, that rare combination of delicate buildup and aggressive finishing. As a three they have more or less everything, and it’s not hard to envisage a Fulham team built around them and doing someone some serious damage.

That’s a best case scenario, and after recent times we must guard against getting too excited lest we be accused of being ‘knee jerk’ or something like that. Nevertheless, excellent play builds hope and we had plenty of the former and so some of the latter.

PS Nice to see David Stockdale back. A solid game: long may he stay between those posts.

15 thoughts on “Fulham 2-0 Bolton Wanderers

  1. How quickly do my emotions change ? Loved your witty and, as usual, spot on account…having watched secretly, in a huff, on a stream !
    Have just bought 2 tickets for the Newcastle game, and will be chugging up the A23 from Brighton after all my threats about not returning this season. Ah well….

  2. Yes, a really decent performance. No weak links at all. That’s surely our best XI: Johnson links better with the attacking midfield trio than Zamora. I wonder whether it’s worth trying Frei in the lone forward role – could he be a medium-term replacement for Johnson? Or maybe Dalla Valle could do it.

    Stockdale didn’t have a lot to do, but did it well. If he plays well for the next few weeks, Jol may be loath to drop him for an older man.

  3. Actually thought that Murphy looked pretty grumpy on occasion, but he played really well so never mind. Etuhu was my man of the match.

  4. As the cliche goes, Ruiz’s goal alone was worth the price of admission. The place was buzzing after it – everyone got such a kick from it. It was a clear goal-scoring chance (obviously). Most players would be happy to put it on target, keep it low, maybe with a little feint but the goalkeeper will have a chance. But scooping it like that the ‘keeper isn’t stopping it – a genius solution to the situation.

  5. The attacking 4 were fantastic. Not only did we not miss Zamora, playing Johnson up front meant we could not just hoof the ball up top and had to create and build up on the ground, which makes us play so much better.

    If we could combine Ruiz and Dembele, we would have the perfect attacker. Both are phenomenal players. Dempsey adds some much needed grit to the attack and Johnson never stops running and could have had a couple.

    Onwards and upwards!

  6. Alex L :
    . Not only did we not miss Zamora, playing Johnson up front meant we could not just hoof the ball up top and had to create and build up on the ground, which makes us play so much better.

    Important point. The tricky Dembele, aggressive Clint, unpredictable Ruiz, behind the hard working AJ, is a pretty potent combination. At least against the likes of Bolton. Man U will be a sterner test.

      1. Agreed. Stockdale played well but he every goal kick seemed to go to AJ and I don’t think he controlled one. No point in doing that.

  7. I thought AJ the man of the match. In my memory, the only time we’ve looked very good when he WASN’T on the pitch was against Citeh. I can’t believe how many want him to go. I commented to the missus that there are at least two Fulham players who will keep attacking: Clint and Our Late President.

    I think we’re beginning to see what Ruiz can do. I think he’ll continue to amaze us. Did anyone else gasp when he rose like a sailfish over on the right touchline to head to a teammate. The man has amazing ups.

    Finally, for your American followers, Throughout the 90 minutes, I found myself wondering why Bolton were wearing uniforms borrowed by the University of Michigan’s pointy football team.

  8. Incidentally, Senderos is starting to win me over. I’ve always felt there was a decent defender in there, but his time at Arsenal made me skeptical and he seems to lose concentration at times (that’s his main problem rather than any lack of talent). However, generally he’s been excellent, although his distribution can be pretty poor. Speaking of which, Stockdale had a decent game but his kicking was fairly crap.

    1. Stockdale’s kicking is usually much better than Schwarzer’s but he suffered yesterday from aiming kicks at AJ. The Chalkboards are quite instructive on this, e.g. we didn’t win many long kicks at all.

  9. Rich – you nailed it there. Hangeland controlled the defence, Murphy the midfield and the front combination were just awesome with Ruiz showing moments of total genius. A proper first team with authority and creativity. More of this please. A real pleasure to watch :)

  10. a nerve settling performance after the debacle midweek.

    the only issue was stockdale clearing to aj every time. he’s not the tallest bloke and was never going to win one of those balls, even against zat ‘he’s got a lot of potential’ knight. when we had it on the deck bolton looked rubbish. as for zat, it irked me somewhat to see that he looks a slightly better player than he was for us…but still nowhere near the quality of our big norwegian brick wall.

    beautiful to see clint, aj, ruiz and moose in action. great passing and some nice skills. if he wants to stay, then bobby’s got to up his game if he wants to be a regular.

    as for ruiz’ goal, i was convinced he shanked it and that it wasn’t going in but, on seeing it again a few times, it was nicely done.

  11. Two great goals and I’m relieved that we were able to see it out without any late drama for once.

    AJ really gave them fits yesterday and I feel like his runs down the right really opened things up for the attacking three behind him. It seems overly simplistic to think this way, but with AJ running down the right, it opens up the middle as two of the attacking three are predominantly left footed and tend to favor coming inside in that direction.

    When Zamora plays up top by himself, he will drift out to the right as well, but then always opts to come back inside to try and get the ball on his left foot. Then, things tend to get bottled up.

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