Fulham 3-0 WBA

All the misery seems misplaced now. Central midfield problem? Not when the back-up back-up plan can run a game against decent opposition. Chris Baird and his messier partner, Steve Sidwell, proved once again that at a stable club no single player is indispensible, no five players even. We can lament the mislaying of Dempsey, Dembele, Murphy, Etuhu and all the other stalwarts of days of yore, but there is much to be excited about, too.

Dimitar Berbatov for one. We had been very excited about him, of course, but today he proved that the strolling reputation is partly an exaggeration: he cares, as witnessed when he showed his frustration with his new, non-Champions League team-mates.

Equally, he shared the love when others’ play merited it. Alex Kacaniklic, thrown away by an increasingly hilarious Liverpool, was in rare form on the left wing, and his jinking directness set up Berbatov’s goals. For the first he drew three players, passed inside, and Berbatov only needed the second he got to control aim fire. Ha. Class.

The second was a penalty after Kacaniklic had sped outside his full-back and been tripped. At first it looked like Hugo Rodallega wanted it but there is a pecking order for these things and that begins with the superstar, who made Ben Foster fly in the wrong direction and putted home.

Berbatov said thank you to his friend on the wing, which is how it should be.

West Brom also had a man sent off, Peter Odemwingie swinging a boot into a space that Sascha Riether occupied. Riether exploded into the air as if he’d trodden on a landmine, and it looked as if Odemwingie had to go. I have my doubts, even after seeing the replay. I think it might just have been a really unfortunate accident, but perhaps not. Either way, it more or less killed the game, if not Riether, who was able to regain his composure and soldiered on.

The second half was okay. Foster made some splendid saves, especially from Duff after the latter walloped a trademark howitzer from the edge of the box, which may have deflected on the way. He made a handful of further saves to keep the game tight, but was ultimately powerless to stop a Steve Sidwell strike from close in, Kasami and Rodallega (both trying far too hard to make an impression in the second half) both having a go before Sidwell bundled a bouncing ball into an empty net.

Another good home win. We kept the ball fabulously well at times, and in Riise we have a full-back at the top of his game. Duff is putting in a Simon Davies c.2007 season whereby he’s 8/10 every match, and the other attacking players all did well enough. Berbatov visibly slowed towards the end but his debut was all we might dared have hope for. It’s hard to describe how exciting it is to have a player like this in front of you. It didn’t all work out for him but the class is shining through already. Fantastic.

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8 thoughts on “Fulham 3-0 WBA

  1. I’m not entirely sure whether Riether might have exaggerated the kick that got Odemwingie sent off, but from the TV replays, it was a solid kick that got Riether in a very uncomfortable place. I don’t know that I’d say Odemwingie was trying to kick Riether, as opposed to trying to make a play on a ball that was getting away from him, but kick Riether he did, and the sending off was wholly deserved.

    The Duff shot you mentioned did deflect on the way through. He’s been in great form though and seems to be developing good chemistry with Riether on the right.

    Seemed like the team was trying to get the ball to Rodallega in scoring positions so he could break his duck.

    Comfortable, all in all. Like you said, Sidwell and Baird may not be Dembele and Mascherano, but they’re entirely adequate for a lot of matches, and they showed that today. By the way, I was surprised that Sidwell didn’t get booked at some point; he was whistled for a number of fouls (none of which were particularly dangerous, some of which I didn’t think were actually fouls) and I thought he might’ve seen a yellow for persistent infringement.

  2. I agree with Josh, the jump that Riether gave was the jump one gives when one is kicked from behind in the man region. The ball was nowhere nearby at that point – Odemwingie clearly thought he had been aggrevied when he was trapped and mugged on the touchline moments before, and lost his head.

    I’ve never said a kind word about Baird here or anywhere else, and when I rolled out of bed at 7 this morning to see that our midfield was Baird and Sidwell, I nearly pulled the covers back over my head. But luckily I did not, because both were soild, Baird especially.

    I thought the key to this game was width — Riise and Riether were both bombing down the wings to great effect, and both Duff and Kacaniclic (/swoon) displayed a good deal of skill on the ball. In the first half, Brom’s possession game developed so slowly that Fulham didn’t seem to fear the counter at all. That changed when Lukaku was subbed in, and Riether (in particular) seemed to stay back more after that. Brom looked a little undisciplined defensively, but looked decent on the ball, and I think Lukaku may end up being really good for them.

    I completely agree about Rodallega trying too hard — with his size and strength he can be a real pest in the box, and this game demonstrated that we have the skill to work the ball into the box if he’s patient. But in the second half, particularly, he didn’t look patient at all — too many shots from just outside the box, although to his credit they were generally on goal. (Kasami was also clearly trying to show off on the run that led to a goal, although it worked out well in the end.)

    I realized while watching this game that I love watching Hangeland run with the ball. He keeps his hands close to his sides, which makes makes him look like an entrant in the sausage races at Milwaukee Brewers games.

    1. “He keeps his hands close to his sides, which makes makes him look like an entrant in the sausage races at Milwaukee Brewers games.”

      This is my new favorite comparison.

  3. Posted on TIFF but also valid here:

    Yesterday was remarkable for many things, one of which was the balance of our side.

    Watching the game, Duff and Kaca looked like mirrors of each other, with their ability to cut in, run at players and make clever lay-offs. Likewise Reither and Riise pushing on and supporting the man in front and being open for the pass in virtually the same fashion as each other. Baird and Sidwell complemented each other perfectly in the middle, with Baird making a number of incisive passes, and Sidwell making a number of incisive tackles and runs. Similarly, Berbatov and Rodallega complemented each other nicely, with the former dropping deep and orchestrating things and the latter keeping the defense back by constantly threatening to pull past the last man.

    The stats show how balanced we were. Have a look at the match report on whoscored.com. Our distribution of attacks was as follows: 36% Left, 27% Middle, 37% right. In possession our top four passers were in order: Reither (89 passes, 93% accurate), Baird (88, 93%), Sidwell (86, 91%), Riise (75, 88%). In possession, those four were our midfield. Our average player positions (from whoscored.com and ESPN gamecast) also show a remarkable symmetry, looking basically like this:


    Other interesting stats. Top four long-balls: Riise (16, 14 accurate), Baird (16, 12), Sidwell (14, 13), Riether (12, 10). That is a midfield (in possession) not only making the simple pass, but successfully switching up play. One area that doesn’t exhibit the same level of balance, however, is crossing, which primarily happened down the left. Top four crossers: Duff (11, 3 accurate), Reither (10, 3), Riise (7, 0), Kacaniklic (3, 1).

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite so perfectly balanced from Fulham, either in watching the match, or in looking at the stats afterwards. I know that we have some serious quality coming back, that we shouldn’t read too much into yesterday because we were at home and facing 10 men for more than half the match, and that balance isn’t the be-all-end-all. But sometimes a manager can stumble upon a team that looks like it just works better together as a team than his first choice 11 and needs to ride it out to see if it is true. Might yesterday be one of these examples? Against Wigan I’d like to see us test it out by fielding the same side, with the quality working its way back to fitness all on the bench.

    1. Also, Rich, you seem to have taken an instant dislike to Riether. Yesterday it was clear to me watching the match (and backed up by the stats) that he was the better of the two fullbacks, yet you single Riise out instead. And he hardly dived after an innocent tackle by Odemwinge; he was kicked in the nuts by a player who even his own manager admits had the “red mist” descend upon him. Why the dislike?

      1. Not a dislike, just don’t think he did well until yesterday. From where I was sitting I thought he’d made a meal out of the foul inicdent but was wrong there. He may have matched Riise yesterday but jar’s been awesome for most of 2012.

        Top comments all, btw!

  4. This looked beforehand like the sort of early season game where in recent years we have struggled. Too many important absentees and new players who have yet to gel. Well what a revelation. Twelve months ago Jol was lamenting how few decent goalscoring chances the team were creating; yesterday we had 20+.

    I get the impression we’re in for a hot/cold season: some days to forget like at W Ham, plenty more to remember but not so much of the Steady Eddie 0-0s and 1-0s (our four league games have procuced sixteen goals).

    Regarding our midfield personel, Karagounis, who you mention in the previous post, is the same age as Danny Murphy. So whilst obviously a short terrm signing he may have a little more to offer than you seem to imply. Funny that you should mention Simon Davies. Is he fit? If so, and he can’t get into the match squad in yesterday’s circumstances, it would appear that sadly he has no future in Martin Jol’s new Fulham.

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