Wigan 1-2 Fulham

Towards the end of last season Wigan went on a mind-bending run that saved their bacon. In that run they lost to Fulham, confirming something we’ve long suspected, that we have our historical league-mates’ number.

Usually Clint Dempsey scored the Wigan beating goals, but he’s swapped Martin Jol for Andres Villas Boas, a small pond for a medium sized one, and now we need someone else to beat Wigan.

It’s not going to be a problem, is it?  Dimitar Berbatov won’t score twice every game but few teams will shut him out for 90 minutes. Today he made the first, crucial goal, and from there the game was ours.

Before the goal came Berbatov had a practice effort, wandering around the defence before flipping a nice cross onto the head of the surprisingly aerial Rodallega. This one was saved, but the pair had another go soon afterwards. Berbatov, gentler this time, a delicious cross that you’d expect Peter Crouch to put away, but again Rodallega reminded us that timing and spring are everything in attacking headers, up he went, in it went, and Fulham were rightly ahead.  Rodallega showed respect for his former employers by not celebrating, which was good of him.

At this point Fulham were rampant, mainly down the right flank where Duff was maintaining his good form. There was no obvious source of our superiority, our players just seemed to be sharper than theirs. Wigan did have a good chance when a first-time shot banged against Mark Schwarzer’s crossbar, but it would’ve been an unjust concession: Fulham deserved to be ahead at half-time.

The second half was always going to be trickier but Wigan didn’t reach top gear until we’d scored again, Ruiz bumbling around in the D (and therefore drawing defenders to him) before feeding a completely free Duff, who scored convincingly.

Do you remember Duff’s Fulham debut?  He came on and within seconds had beaten his man on the touchline and made a goal. He looked thrilled. Here was another Roy Hodgson makeover, a great player down on his luck enjoying his football again. He hasn’t really stopped since then and it’s been one of the wonders of modern Fulham that we’ve had a player like this in our team for a decent while now. Duff’s been terrific and while we all know he’s been terrific, perhaps we don’t always appreciate how terrific.

Anyway, that was 2-0. Wigan got one back very late on but Fulham won these three points easily enough. It wasn’t like last week when the midfield absolutely dominated, this was more of a team performance where we were a bit better than them everywhere, and had the nous and opportunity to make the most of our quality. Football doesn’t always reward good performances, particularly away from home, but this is why you sign Dimitar Berbatov isn’t it?  Quality in the penalty box makes the difference.

9 thoughts on “Wigan 1-2 Fulham

  1. If there are an infinite number of universes, endlessly bifurcating as a result of individual quantum outcomes, then we’re lucky to be in this universe — because there are a good number where Fulham lost this game 3-2.

    We followed up last week’s impressive wing play by pounding the right flank through Duff, but unlike last week, there was no balance. Kaca’s touches, when he got them, were poor — but I don’t remember him even seeing the ball the first 15-20 minutes. Duff ran wild, and Berbatov was still making plays in the center of the field, so everything was fine.

    After the initial goal, things got dicey. Last week, Brom sat so far off that Baird et al could sit on the ball, think carefully, and deliver a pinpoint pass. Wigan doesn’t play that way, and there was a lengthy period where we’d boot the ball forward, lose it off an imperfect first touch, and then have to wait 90 seconds for Wigan to do whatever it was they were going to try to do – which was mostly to stretch the left side of the defense and then get the ball out to the corner, leaving Riether stranded in space as crosses lofted over his head again and again. I was relieved when the half ended.

    IMO, bringing on Ruiz saved the game. Beyond his skill, switching to a 4-2-3-1 solidified the midfield enough to shift momentum back in our favor. I had no idea what to expect from Rodallega on the left wing, but he did fine – his passing was decent and he came back deep to help out Riise quite a bit.

    I really loved the second goal. First, Rodallega (presumably feeling relieved to have finally scored) looked for Ruiz, which is the sort of decision he didn’t make last week. Then, Ruiz managed to combine his footwork with a physical strength that I’m pretty sure he didn’t have 12 months ago to muscle off 3 defenders and get the ball to Duff. And Duff has been tremendous all season.

    Wigan’s goal was an utter debacle, but luckily it didn’t matter.

    Final thought: these kits, I’m not so sure. Like a fluffernutter on dark rye,
    or a particularly obscure brand of sandwich cookie.

    (Yikes, this was way too long. Get yer own blog, why dontcha.)

  2. Ha – both great comments. CT – you can have a post as long as you like if you always start with such a great opening paragraph. My only comment is that surely you can’t suggest there is a parallel universe where Sanchez is still our manager and we have won the Champions League 5 years in a row ….

  3. I agree with you that Duff, Berbatov and Hugo were class but I have to disagree that we were better everywhere. I thought, with the exception of Duff, that Wigan’s midfield outplayed the trio of Baird, Sidwell and Kacaniklic. The Ruiz substitution was clearly needed.

  4. Nice post CT. We’ve often been in that parallel universe, where we’ve deserved to win but haven’t.

    On the subject of Duff. Could it be the Duffer who fills the goal gap left by Clint?
    He’s probably still faster than Dempsey. He’s hard to get off the ball. He does more of a defensive shift as well. He draws free kicks in dangerous areas. He can shoot, maybe with less power, but more accuracy. He’s not going to head (m)any. He’s probably tactically smarter than Clint. And he’s on fire. On target to get well into double figures this season if he stays injury free.

    1. Duff has been a class above this season so far. We are truly lucky to have such a model professional in our club playing out of his skin every game. Would have been my choice for captain this season.

  5. The Ruiz haters (I am not one but I know a few) will point out that, before passing off to Duff for his goal, he had run up a blind alley, gotten himself surrounded by defenders, had the ball tackled away, and only had the chance to make his pass because each of the Wigan defenders assumed that one of the others would do something with the ball.

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