Before the game we all agreed we had no idea what to expect, but really that went exactly as we’d have expected, had we had any expectations.
The home team and favourites looked pretty good. Someone said ‘functional’, which does Ipswich a disservice, but this was a fully realised team in a way that Fulham aren’t. Ipswich won’t have worried at all that Fulham had almost all the ball for much of the first half, Fulham’s play being too far from goal and lacking a bit of something. The front two of Dembele and McCormack looked nifty on occasion but was really too far away from a midfield that flickered in and out. For all the good possession there wasn’t much of a killer instinct.
There didn’t need to be, of course. As the away side, enjoying most of the ball, Fulham will have felt okay about the world until they went behind. I’ve spoken of Glenn Hoddle’s multiple mistake theory of goal concessions before, but here was a good example. Some untidiness around a bouncing ball in midfield, Scott Parker erred in waiting for the ball to settle of its own accord, which it didn’t, and suddenly Ipswich had turned on the jets and Fulham were in trouble. A quick pass to Murphy, who had it all to do, but then he burst forward past a bemused Hutchinson. The latter presumably felt he was about to slow Murphy down while help arrived, but Murphy had other ideas and charged in on goal. Joronen was probably down a bit early and Murphy finished well. Four mistakes of varying seriousness and Fulham were losing.
The whites’ best chance came when Chris David stung the hands of Gerken, the Ipswich ‘keeper. The ball popped loose and Dembele reacted quickly, but Gerken redeemed himself with a smart block.
David was withdrawn at half time. Eisfeld replaced him, like-for-like.
Fulham didn’t offer much in the second half until Patrick Roberts came on. At that point they were two down, Hutchinson capping a day he won’t want to remember by being shouldered off the ball near the corner flag. Town swept the ball infield and McGoldrick powered home the loose ball.
With 15 minutes left Fulham brought Roberts on and suddenly the game was transformed. Roberts was by some distance the best player on the pitch and managed to transcend the mediocrity around him. He slipped Eisfeld through with one good ball, and his play brought a directness and intelligence heretofore missing. It was he who slipped Hoogland through down the right for what would become the Fulham consolation, Hoogland overlapping, cutting in, then shooting home via a deflection. And it was he who had half an opening late on, the ball not quite going where it needed to go. He’ll do a lot of damage cutting in from the right. Sooner rather than later Fulham need to take off the cotton wool and let him play from the start.
So yeah, probably the right result. One team knew itself, the other finding its way. Understandable: this is a new team full of new combinations. It really will take time for this team to get going.
Setup, players, etc
Joronen got the start in goal and did okay. Not at fault for either goal and made a couple of nice saves. 6/10
Hoogland played as an energetic right-back and appeared capable of playing the role well. He was up and down and didn’t appear to be caught upfield at all. I didn’t really get a sense of his defensive prowess, nor of his crossing, but he scored and had a couple of other dangerous runs so gets 7/10 for now.
Bodurov had a good debut as best I could tell. One tackle in the second half impressed particularly. Bears watching but so far so good. 6/10.
Hutchinson will be better than this. He’ll hate how his debut went but made a couple of decent interventions and it wasn’t all bad by any means. A thrown-together team is probably hardest for the defence and they’ll need a while to get a sense of what’s happening and where. I hope Magath’s style isn’t to throw players in and out with every iffy performance. 4/10.
Stafylidis did what it says on the tin with some good bursts forward and some robust defending. Like everyone else, it seems, I like the look of him. 6/10.
[it must at this point be noted, somewhere, that both of our full-backs had ponytails and beards – a first?]
Parker – I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on him but as the squad’s senior man I expected more. It’s like he was trying to be “the man” a bit, but I got cross with him eschewing the obvious pass time and again, overlooking teammates who could have taken the ball, and twirling around before passing somewhere no better than option 1. The result was a general slowing of Fulham’s approach work to no obvious advantage. Scott Parker knows more about passing than I do, but he wouldn’t be the first 33 year old to completely lose the ability to play football and I’m more inclined to think that he’ll do a Danny Murphy in the championship than not. The Premiership exposed his lack of range and waning physicality and perhaps we simply saw a continuation of it today. Put another way, when Fulham needed an equaliser did you want Parker anywhere near the ball? 4/10
Burgess was used in a sort of Busquets role in which he dropped deep out of possession but moved up with it. Now it’s true that we’ve been desperate for that unselfish Etuhu role since Dickson last donned a Fulham shirt, but it didn’t really feel as if Burgess was the answer. I mean, he did what he did well enough, particularly as an 18 year old playing his first game in a tricky away match with a completely new team in a completely new position, but… no, there can’t really be a but can there? 5/10.
Hyndman looked terrific to me, absolutely terrific. Bold, busy, intelligent, technically able. Very impressed. Brendan Rodgers will buy him. 7.5/10.
David/Eisfeld played the central attacking role the team needs to knit together what might become quite a broken team when Roberts isn’t playing. They both showed glimpses of class and both seem perfectly able. Mad as it might seem, giving them half a game each for the rest of the season wouldn’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened, but on this evidence, if you were choosing one of them it might be Eisfeld, who looked more polished and intelligent in his 45 minutes. As with everyone, their play will improve as they get to know their teammates. 6/10.
Dembele – I’ll be honest, I have no idea what all the fuss is about. I’m conscious that he’s only young and that in time he could be a beast, but to me he just looks clumsy and out of his depth. Against that I guess he had the one big chance, which speaks of an ability to be where he’s meant to be, but letting the ball run under his boot as time ran down kind of summed him up for me. I’ll look ridiculous when he’s hitting 30 a season for AC Milan in 5 years but there we are. 4.5/10.
McCormack has apparently not been 100%, which is a big shame as you can see the class in his work and how he will score the goals. 6/10.
Subs: Woodrow does have that terrific energy, doesn’t he? It does presumably make him nice to play with as he’s always trying to show for the ball. I don’t doubt that in time Dembele will be the better player but I think Woodrow’s more useful to us now. (6/10).
Roberts I thought was terrific. A different game with him on the pitch. The hype will swirl around and he’ll go large sooner rather than later, but let’s maximise his time on the pitch while we have him. 7.5/10.
Wind: 10mph SW
Ipswich Town: Gerken, Chambers, Berra, Smith, Mings, Hewitt, Hyam (Bru 82), Skuse (Wordsworth 70), Tabb, Bajner (McGoldrick 44), Murphy.
Subs: Bialkowski, Henshall, Marriott, Nouble.
Goals: Murphy 32, McGoldrick 61.
Booked: Hyam, Mings, Berra.
Fulham: Joronen, Hoogland, Hutchinson (Roberts 74), Bodurov, Burgess, Stafylidis, David (Eisfeld 46), Parker, Hyndman, Dembele, McCormack (Woodrow 57).
Subs: Bettinelli, Rodallega, Fotheringham, Burn.
Goal: Hoogland 86.
Referee: Stephen Martin