How about that then, eh? Fulham were absolutely fabulous, and deserved to score more than two against a good Sunderland side. More than anything it was a win that confirmed Martin Jol’s nous for teambuilding, taking Roy Hodgson’s stalwarts and making them thrilling. Everywhere you looked was someone at the top of their game and Sunderland may very well have traveled back north shaking their heads: how could they have seen that coming?
Fulham took the lead with a Clint Dempsey thunderbolt. “That’s in” I said as soon as the ball left his boot, and so it proved, flying past Mignolet’s dive and into the corner. 50 league goals for Clint? If so, a terrific milestone for a terrific player – we must hope he sees it that way and, furthermore, makes it his business to double the tally.
Sunderland weren’t here to make up the numbers and came back at us. Schwarzer made a couple of good saves (one throwing himself at the feet of a forward was particularly fine) but had no chance with a Phil Bardsley belter, the ball fading away from him and into the far corner.
But but but! There went Dembele in, out, roundabout, bang, goal. Suspect it got a deflection on the way but hey, you can count the number of players in this league who could’ve scored that goal on about one finger. Manchester United representatives will have been watching Sunderland today; one hopes they didn’t notice anyone in white because currently Dembele’s playing like a late vintage Ryan Giggs, with extra tackling. He, Murphy and Diarra must, between them, be about a good as midfield as Fulham have ever had, or could ever hope to have. If only they were all 25.
That was all the scoring, although Fulham could’ve had more. Dempsey nearly scored with a smart prod from a corner, only to see the ball headed off the line. Dembele nearly bagged a fabulous solo goal, only for Mignolet to perform miracles for what felt like the thousandth time (but probably wasn’t).
It wasn’t just chances though, the performance just oozed excellence. Our passing was wonderful, a cut above anything we’ve put together in recent memory. Murphy, ace organiser, gave a 10/10 display in the middle of the park: he’s like a grand-master playing speed chess, calculating from all possibilities and choosing the best in a fraction of a second, whether playing simple passes to nearby runners or launching a missile from one flank to another, he’s absolutely *on* at the moment. Age? Pah. Nobody else can pass like that. Diarra (who had another “there are three of him out there” performance) and Dembele (see above) complement him splendidly and we need them together for another season.
So there we are. That’s all folks for Craven Cottage 11/12. We’ve started slowly, and the Europa games were, in retrospect, not quite as much fun as they might have been, but whether it was a clearer schedule, the players tuning into Jol’s ideas, or even the removal of Zamora, something’s turned out for the best at Fulham and we’re now, more often than not, a fine side.