They’ve done it. Martin Jol…er…Billy McKinlay’s side have won in Merseyside for the first time since….too long ago for me to do the research. And they’ve won for the first time ever at Anfield. It was an interesting match, with not much riding on it, but nonetheless, one of the monkeys is off the Cottagers’ backs, which is always important going into next season looking for big things from the Black and White Army.
-The defense – they played bend-not-break defense, and it worked to perfection. They came close to breaking a few times but someone was always there to bail out whoever was having a hard time. It helped that the Liverpool strikers and midfielders were in about as poor form as you could be, as an on-target Andy Carroll may have sunk Fulham (so would a minotaur or soccer fairy, but all 3 are mythical creatures so we don’t have to worry). The central defense pairing was as good as ever, and they continue to make the case why Martin Jol should never, ever break them up so help me God. Also, John Arne Riise continues to show his worth in the attack as well, being a major player in the goal.
-The midfield – Danny Murphy was back in the starting lineup, and he was the captain at its best. It’s amazing to me how just being in his proximity on the pitch makes everyone else around him better. Kacaniklic was also his usual youthful, energetic self, and he helped set up the goal, among other great things. He’s a beautiful chance creator, and one that hopefully continues to stick around Craven Cottage and the first team. As one of my wonderful Twitter followers so eloquently put it: “Jol, please lock Kacaniklic into a room by himself until he signs.” I concur (not that I condone kidnapping. If you get caught Jol, you know nothing of this post or that tweet).
-The work rate – It continues to impress me every time Fulham get a positive result how much they work until the final whistle. The two who come to mind are Danny Murphy, obvious as captain, and Pogrebnyak. Both men work tirelessly no matter where the ball is. The defense is another that works so hard. I really want to give a ton of praise to management, because it’s obvious the players buy into whatever Jol and McKinlay are laying in front of them, and the players are inspired to perform well for the leaders. It’s something whose importance cannot be overstated.
-Clint Dempsey’s finishing – Oops! Dempsey missed a couple of sitters, one on a horrible back header by Skirtel. I’m not going to harp too much on it because not only did it not have an affect on the outcome, but Clint’s allowed a bad game or two every now and then. And he didn’t have an overall bad performance, just those two instances.
-The late injuries – It may be nothing, but Pogrebnyak came off with a back problem that looked like it may have been nagging him for about 10 or 15 minutes before he came off. Also, Dembele may have an upper leg injury. Hopefully they’re nothing really, but they’re something to keep in mind.
Man of the Match: This one is easy: Brede Hangeland. HOW on EARTH no bigger club has picked him off our squad for a hefty fee is beyond me. The Norwegian is quite possibly the most valuable body on the pitch day in and day out for Fulham, and one of the most consistent as well. He had a phenomenal match, making a goal-line clear on a ball that beat Schwarzer, and also saved the day later in the match when Andy Carroll (I think) made a break down the side and into the box with no one else between him and the keeper. Again, I will also reiterate his work rate. Impressive.
I think this match tells us less about our club, however, than it does about the ‘Pool. Kenny Dalglish’s side has a lot of thinking to do before they face Chelsea. Obviously they were playing very few regulars, but it’s still been established that they’re clear underdogs going into this FA Cup final, and they will have to play exponentially better than they did today to even have a chance. It’s been an odd season for the Reds, and this weekend’s tie has a lot to do whether it will be a memorable one or one they’d rather forget.
Interesting note: Thanks to HammyEnd.com for this one, that goal today was Fulham’s first at Anfield since 2006 (Collins John).