Martin Jol said 5 or 6 wins are going to be needed to guarantee we stay away from the relegation zone, and the club are 1 win closer to securing not only safety but a respectable finish.
The birthday boy headed home the first goal of the night (he was offsides, shhhhhhh), and Hugo Rodallega, who’s got 3 massive goals this year, banged home the winner just after West Ham equalized. It was a very exciting back-and-forth match, but showed the weakness in defense for both clubs. Fulham are going to have to weather poor defense for the rest of the season, and it isn’t going to be fun against better clubs.
That being said, this win is massive in terms of confidence. It got Berbatov back on track (on his birthday, no less), it slotted Fulham up to 12th in the table for the time being, and picked up some kind of points ahead of a challenging stretch of 6 games or so.
Hugo Rodallega – The offseason transfer has been a statistical nightmare this season, but Rodallega provided pace, cutting edge, and fantastic passing as he led the charge up front for Fulham. He seemed to dictate terms with the West Ham defense, and made some excellent runs that the Fulham midfielders mostly were able to pick out.
Dimitar Berbatov – The birthday boy picked a great game to bounce back from a run of poor form. He’d probably have been better had he not been hampered by a hamstring problem most of the match, and he pulled up lame at the end to cap it off. Hopefully this gives him some more confidence as well. Confidence is going to be a huge thing for more than just Berbatov going forward.
Sascha Riether – By far Fulham’s most consistent defender this season, he’s making a big case to be made permanently a Fulham player at the end of the season. His tackles are spot-on, and he provides pace down the wing. Most importantly, though, he’s made so massive tackles this year, and that’s what Fulham are lacking at the back. It’s hard to beat him one-on-one. Fulham absolutely need to throw everything they’ve got at keeping him beyond this year.
Bryan Ruiz – This one’s not on Ruiz. It’s solely on Martin Jol. Ruiz isn’t a winger, and clearly can’t perform well in that position. Ruiz has played out of position since Dembele’s departure, stuck farther back in the midfield than is suited to him. He was stuck out of position today even worse, as Jol tried to stick Berbatov in more of Ruiz’s spot. Dejagah came on for Ruiz and played very well in his spot, so I wouldn’t expect to see the Costa Rican on the wing much more, if at all.
Philippe Senderos – He made a few good plays, but mostly he failed miserably at his job again, and even got away with a blatant handball towards the end of the match after Fulham’s third goal had been scored. Aaron Hughes has slipped mightily, but he’s still a much better option than Senderos. Then again, so is a cucumber.
Man of the Match: Damien Duff, without question. His passes were incredible, crosses were on point (something Fulham’s been missing this season), and even took a few great strikes on goal, coming just wide/high on them. Alex Kacaniklic, who was left out of the side altogether today, is going to have a real struggle to get back into it, with Duffer now at 7 assists in 19 matches, and Urby Emanuelson – who will most likely slide into either left back or left wing – heading to Craven Cottage imminently.
Last words: Fulham were lucky that West Ham were somewhat off target today and Andy Carroll only played 15 minutes, but they got the job done, and 3 points in the bank. We’re now in 12th place and 8 points ahead of the drop, which by no means is safe, but it’s a good enough distance for a slip-up or two against the top teams, which is probably bound to happen, especially this Saturday. West Ham, meanwhile, are in a real troubling position in 13th, just one point below Fulham but their defense looks extremely poor and attack not as good as advertised. Getting Carroll back will be huge.
There’s also word now that not only has Tom Huddlestone’s name popped up again, but Andre Villas-Boas has confirmed Fulham have spoken with the midfielder and he’s at Craven Cottage to discuss a possible transfer. We’ll see where that’s headed. Happy 3 points everyone! COYW!