A solid, professional job in the end. Charlton, as the third division table shows, are a tidy enough team, but in the end class told. Clint Dempsey scored a hat-trick, Damien Duff whopped in another, and Fulham are in the hat for the 4th round.
We scored early, Murphy’s through ball finding Dempsey, who lifted the ball home expertly. After that came no deluge, though, Fulham reverting to frustrating ‘walk it through crowds’ attacking. Charlton were organised enough to see that out easily enough so half-time came with a strange feeling of uncertainty. We’re ahead, but not very ahead. Slightly dangerous.
Charlton flew at us in the second half but aside from a couple of neat moves and a long range blockbuster (all of which David the Invincible kept out) Fulham were in command, Hangeland and Senderos in particular standing tall as if to say ‘keep trying, lads; better luck next time’. Trouble was our attacking play was pedestrian.
Credit then to Martin Jol who rearranged his troups and instantly changed the game. Kerim Frei (no longer a mystery to defences and in need of a second trick) made way for Duff, which pushed Dempsey to the left and moved Ruiz inside. Ruiz – heretofore poor – then showed why game-changers are valuable. Remember the saying “Arsene knows”? (back when he did). We should have a similar one: “Ruiz stays”. No matter how poor he looks, there’s always something up his sleeve, and today he played integral roles in our second and third goals.
The second was a neatly worked goal involving Dempsey and Ruiz, the former lifting it over the goalkeeper for the second time to secure the game. The third saw Ruiz burst through into the area, where he got himself upended and won a penalty. Bobby Zamora did a nice thing then, retrieving the ball and lobbing it over the expectant Murphy into the arms of Dempsey, who pounded home his hat-trick with a penatly suspiciously like those he’s been missing with. I don’t know for sure but I imagine that’s Dempsey’s first meaningful hat-trick, so hurray for him.
Duff – playing well – scored a deflected fourth and neglected to celebrate with any great passion. Perhaps the game was too far gone.