Category Archives: Game reports

Fulham game reviews

Abbreviated View from South Texas — Fulham v. Watford

by HatterDon

First of all, I hate them damned Dirty Yellows. The Hatter in me has never had any good thoughts about that crew, and today didn’t change my mind.

Having said that, I’ve seldom seen such a textbook display of quality passing as we saw from Watford. Long, short, back, forward, sideways — all of them clear, smooth, and accurate. With that passing acuity against a 10-man squad, it was always going to get ugly early. And so it did.

From the beginning it was obvious that something was not right with Betts. His crap decision making almost cost us a goal early on when Budurov had to jump in and concede a free kick. He completely lost his rag in giving up the penalty. Since when does an early red card become the better option? Whenever the keeper is sent off, two players suffer. With the exception of his weak distribution, our young keeper has impressed me so far this season. Today, it looked like he left his brain hanging on a hook with his civvies.

Fulham throughout looked confused and out of sorts. Watford looked like a calm, top table side, even given their four game losing streak, and man did their finishing match their passing. That 4th goal was stunning. Fully six Hornets caught the eye, but I’m not going to mention any of them. They’ll be in the playoff picture at least with this squad. Fulham? I’ve seen some great performances from the Whites this season, but today was about dispirited mediocrity. Down 2-0 inside 25 minutes is tough, but a resolute side would have stopped the bleeding and made Watford pay for every yard of turf. Today we never looked like causing even a single threat.

This season, there have been several Fulham players who caught my eye from time to time. Today, the only two players in white I thought put in a decent shift were Grimmer and LVC. The rest looked lost.

I still think we’re going to finish in the top half. I never thought we would be relegated. I never thought we were going to get promoted, but I really had hoped that we were going to stop playing like our manager was Martin Jol.

Oh, and my hat is off to the 2-300 Fulham supporters to stuck around for the bitter end. With the place apparently half full at best, there never was much atmosphere to dissipate with early exits.

There’s obviously no HatterDon Man of the Match in this abortion, but I’m also not going to single out any one person as responsible for this debacle. I’m hoping there’s a bunch of players looking hard at themselves and asking, “Couldn’t I have done more tonight?”

The View From South Texas – Ipswich Town FC v. Fulham FC

Suffolk Shakedown Cruise

No fewer than eight Fulham players made their first-team debut today at Portman Road as Fulham played their first match in the second tier of English football for 13years. With so many new players playing in a new league with a fairly new manager, it was to be expected that there would be some rough spots in Fulham’s first competitive match.

And there were.

With Burgess and Parker appearing to be responsible for supporting the defense, and David and Hyndman setting up as the attacking portion of the midfield, it was clear that only one pairing was working as planned. David looked especially lively early on, playing with confidence and no little style. Hyndman looked competent and made good use of space to keep himself open. Having said that, it was the connection with Parker/Burgess and the new CB pairing of Budurov and Hutchinson that never quite clicked over the 90 minutes.

Although he was to be faulted for neither of Ipswich’s goals, Young Keeper Joronen looked well out of his league. He made a very classy save early on, but he was woefully hesitant in his area and demonstrated the worst distribution I have seen from a Fulham keeper in a very long time. A lot of this is, of course, inexperience. It was his first-team Fulham debut, and his first match at this high level period. Inexperience can be overcome and confidence will make him more in charge of his area, but his most glaring inadequacy may take many years to correct: He is completely one-footed. With modern goalkeeprs acting as sweepers, he’s outmatched. Several times his kicks went directly into touch because he was in no position to use his left foot, and he has neither capability within or confidence in his right. This is troublesome.

As a matter of fact, the times when I was most concerned during the match was when the ball was at the feet of Joronen, Hutchinson, or Budurov.

McCormack started today and was the first player subbed off. The television guy [and how nice to have only ONE voice in the box again] seemed to think that it was due to his ineffectiveness. I disagree. I think it was due to his lack of pre-season pitch time. I generally liked what I saw from him. As for his strike partner, I’m willing to bet that Moussa Dembele has never had a less effective 90 minutes on a pitch in his life. He couldn’t keep possesion, couldn’t turn, couldn’t find a teammate, and – most problematical for the near future – couldn’t bring either his strength or quickness to bear on Ipswich’s defense.

The match turned around when young Mr. Roberts came on. The ENTIRE TEAM went into attack mode and the Tractor Boys found themselves on their back heels for the rest of the match. Some will be shouting “ROBERTS MUST START NEXT WEEKEND,” but again I disagree. He’s 17, and I think we’ll be seeing him in the role we saw him in today for a few more months.

Of the new boys, the one who impressed me most was Stafylidis. Fulham might actually have a left back that can attack and defend. Also handy was his RB partner Hoogland, although not so much on the defensive end.

So, Fulham opened the season with a defeat, and it took 75 minutes to get hold of the match. It’s early days, though. Here’s what I’m hoping that Felix noted today.
1. Fulham have to take control of the match. By my count, the very first corner – and the first set piece of the match came in the 77th minute. This will not do.
2. Fulham have to realize that the Championship is the Land of the Giants. Hoofing the ball upfield from defense to moderately tall strikers is not going to work. Fulham have an advantage in ball skills, quickness, and fitness. The quick on-the-ground movement we saw after the Roberts substitution should be our prime mode.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match? Well, I was ready to give it to David after the first half, but there was that substitution. So, instead, it goes to Patrick Roberts, and may it be the first of many.


The View From South Texas — WBA v. Fulham FC

Another Saturday, Another Disappointment

Today was Match Day One of the Felix Magath Era at Fulham FC, and it was a mixed introduction for the enigmatic German. Fulham played their traditional game of two halves, dominating a dispirited Albion in the first 45 and falling back into a shell in the second. Ashkan Dejagah had a very good match which was highlighted by a well taken goal. The shame of it was, of course, that it could very well have been our third of the first half, and the second 45 could have been a stroll. Instead, the second half was a slog, and when Matej Vydra’s shot slithered under Stekelenberg’s body for the equalizer in the 86th, it was completely with the run of play. Neither team had the class to get the deciding goal, so West Brom remain four points and about +30 goal difference above Fulham.

Now that all that is out of the way, let’s talk about Magath’s Fulham. The first thing I noticed was that our fullbacks – Riether and Amorebieta – are staying at home and defending. The work along the wings under this manager appear to be the job of … say it quietly … wingers. Richardson and Dejagah took control of the wide attack and Hugo Rodallega was alone up front. With the back four ACTUALLY a back four, Felix called upon Fulham’s English central mid pair with Holtby filling the 5th midfield slot. Heitinga partnered the recalled Hangeland and Fulham looked solid in defense for the whole 90 minutes. Back from his literal black eye against Liverpool, Stekelenberg was solid in the goal and delivered a few top quality saves. He came off his line on two occasions to relieve the pressure on our defense. The equalizer aside, this might have been his best performance in a Fulham shirt, and for 85 minutes, he was my man of the match. JA Riise, who came on early in the second for Amorebieta upgraded the defense.

Fulham’s midfield linked well, and Holtby, Richardson, and Dejagah spread out the Albion defense and opened several holes. Heitinga could have opened the scoring with a header over the bar from a corner, and Sidwell missed the sort of chance he’s been putting away all season. When the goal came, it arose from a good surge up the left wing by Richardson. His cross was comically whiffed by both Hugo and an already-fading Holtby. Luckily it rolled to Dejagah who put it away calmly.

When Fulham forced a corner in the first 30 seconds of the second half, it looked like the Whites might get the early goal that could bury the Baggies. It was not to be. Despite incoherent attacks by Albion that were easily rebuffed, Fulham didn’t seem to be able to keep the ball on the deck and work it to Rodallega, Richardson, or Dejagah. When the expected substitution of Mitroglou for Rodallega occurred – more on the debut Greek later – some of the sting went out of Fulham’s counter attacking threat. The NEXT Fulham substitution was a puzzler.

While most in the chatroom were expecting Burn to come on for Hangeland – who was having a very good game – instead he came on for Richardson. For my money, that one substitution took Fulham out of contention for scoring again. Riether was moved to central midfield. Now, if Magath wasn’t going to take off Hangeland, the obvious choice was to move Heitinga to midfield. The Dutchman has played that position as much as he has center back, but that option wasn’t available since Heitinga had his hands full with Victor Anichebe, and was containing him very well. So, with one subsitution, Fulham weakened its attack, midfield and defense. It was a complete headscratcher.With Holtby a shadow of what we’ve seen earlier, it was just a question of hold on and hope for a clean sheet. Unfortunately, Fulham were unable to keep possesion and an equalizer was inevitable.

If Albion weren’t such an abysmally poor side, they’d have handled us easily. Still we looked organized in defense and played well overall. I do believe that Felix will get the best out of the squad, but I think he’s here much too late to keep us up. The fact that I’m so wrong about so many thing so much of the time does give me a little hope.

And now about our record signing. Setting aside the question of why we spent so much money on a guy who not only was not match fit but was carrying an injury in the first place, let’s talk about what we saw out there today. Yes, I know it was his first match, but Kostas Mitroglou:
can’t run
can’t jump
can’t hold and distribute
can’t keep possession
looks petulant
looks lost, BUT
has a devilish beard
The man is NOT an upgrade on Bent. Now he will get more fit and he will look more at home, but he gave no evidence of moving or thinking quickly enough to make a difference for us.

Given Stek’s fumble dropping us two points, I can’t give him the virtual bottle of Dos Equiis his earlier play so richly deserved. Instead,HatterDon’s Man of the Match is Johnny Heitinga, who played brilliantly today. His blanketing of Anichebe was good to watch. I think he has earned the “CB partner” position.

Next up? Our neighbors. Oh joy! If Holtby shakes off his logy, and Dejagah, Richardson, and Heitinga maintain their form, nice things could happen, but I don’t see The Undead’s back four and GK being the slightest bit concerned by Rodallega, Bent, or Mitroglou. Perhaps it’s time for the resurrection of Kasami? Stay tuned.

The View From South Texas — Sheffield U v. Fulham FC — FA4

Worst Possible Result?

Fulham slopped through the mud at a half-empty Bramhall Lane this morning with a makeshift lineup and managed to come away with a draw. Fielding three promising young players and eight who haven’t been able to nail down a regular starting position, Fulham faced another relegation struggler two divisions down. With the condition of the pitch, it was never likely to be a celebration of classic football. Instead, it had all the earmarks of a traditional January match in the third division.

The first victim of the playing conditions was John Arne Riise who went off after 9 minutes. He was replaced by Ange Freddy Plumain who slotted into midfield with Damien Duff taking over at left back. Plumain joined Muamer Tankovic, Chris David, and Joshua Passley to give us what must be our youngest lineup in ages – even accounting for Duff and Karagounis.

For Fulham there was a lot of patient buildup and either wild shots or loss of possession. Of the kids, Plumain was the most disappointing. He moves well and is comfortable with the ball at his feet, but he seemed unable to pass or cross from wide positions. David is easily the most mature and “at home” of the four, and Passley – who I’d not heard much talk about – was more than competent in the RB position.

Fulham continued to control the ball – ESPN gives us 74% possession over the 90+ minutes – with little danger imposed on the Blades’ goal. United scored first completely against the run of play, and it took the sending off of United’s captain for a disgusting off-the-ball attack on David to finally rouse Fulham to the realization that they might actually win this tie. The last 20 minutes saw the introduction of Bent and Taraabt to supplement the woefully ineffective Rodallega. Our enigmatic Colombian provided the equalizer with a clinical turn and shoot from just outside the area. It was Tankovic who found him.

Senderos hammered the cross bar with a nice glanced header, and there were a couple of decent saves by the Blades’ keeper, but when the whistle finally blew it was clear that neither relegation struggler got a result they could be happy with – another match in a crowded schedule just ten days from now.

Oh, each team had a reasonable shout for a penalty ignored by Andre Marriner. Of the two, I thought United had the better claim, but that’s all academic.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match is Pajtim Kasami. If I were Alistair MacHatter, I’d be building Fulham’s future around the guy.

Tuesday at Swansea looms. COYW

The View From South Texas — Fulham FC v. Norwich City FA3 Replay

Up for the Cup

Yesterday – yes, I know, not my usual publishing speed – Fulham roasted an all-at-odds Norwich City at half-empty Craven Cottage and sent them down the mine in search of a Canary and out of the FA Cup.

Bouncing back from perhaps the most embarrassing league result in recent memory, Fulham controlled the action almost from the beginning and ran out 3-0 winners. It was much easier than the scoreline indicated. Yes, young Murphy started again and caused Riether some problems early on, but also early on Norwich displayed a tactical flaw. Passes upfield out of defense were tentative and to zone rather than to player. What was needed here was a greedy opponent – preferably a young winger – to capitalize on this weakness. In Alex Kacaniklic, Fulham have such a young winger, and he purloined passes all match. Fulham also showed a desire to press Norwich’s defense and midfield all evening, which made it easier for the Whites to turn toothless City attacks into ruthless Fulham attacks.

Fulham’s first goal combined two wingers, a center mid and a fullback, but was scored by our much maligned striker Darren Bent. Bent’s not the most industrious chap ever to wear the black and white, but he knows what to do with a cross and a distracted defense. Fulham’s second came from the Andrew Johnson playbook. Bent stretched out the defense by going wide, Kacaniklic moved to the right wing further confusing them, and found right winger Ashkan Dejagah racing into the penalty area like an Iranian Clint Dempsey. Two crosses, two easy conversions. What next?

Well, it wasn’t immediately next, but Fulham’s third goal came from a cross hammered into the back of the net by the White’s own special one Iniesta. How sad is it when your leading goalscorer is a central midfielder and you have two proven goalscorers in your striker corps? Pretty sad, but just imagine how poor our season would be if we didn’t have Sidwell out there – match after match – winning the ball, supporting the attack, and converting chances. Yeah, just imagine … we might be playing crap match after match and finding ourselves in the middle of a relegation struggle.

Hey, wait a minute … .

Individually? This match was my first look at Dan Burn. I liked what I saw. I think he’s better than any CB we have on our books and should stay. Yes, I noticed that Hangeland was back, but I also noticed that he was still tentative and slow on the turn. It might be a fitness thing, but I think Fulham supporters are kidding themselves if they believe that they’ll ever see the Hangeland that was the Rock of Defensive Ages.

Generally speaking, starting Special K and Super Iranian made Fulham instantly better. Two attack minded wide players increase the threat of Darren Bent significantly. I’m not all that sure about Karagounis as the protector of the back four, however. Despite the fact that I’ve seen several shouts for him to be man-of-the-match, I though him most responsible for Norwich’s early attacking moves in each half. He dwelt on the ball and conceded possession leading to almost every threat to the Fulham goal. Oh, and speaking of which Stekelenberg was back, and impressed me not at all. I thought Richardson showed why he should be first choice LB, but I haven’t figured out what Rene wants his sides to do yet, so I’m not predicting.

Finally, I was pleased to see Tankovic, Dembele, and Christensen get minutes. The highlight of the match for me was watching Dembele muscle Bassong out of the play and retain possession. I don’t think City’s central defender has had that sort of treatment from many teenagers.

All it all, it was a very good win and round four sends us to darkest Yorkshire to face Sheffield United. If we continue to use youngish players in the Cup, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue to look better in that competition than in the league. Or, maybe our leadership triumvirate will see the benefit in using the youth in the league as well. Well, perhaps.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match – With a special salute to Alex Kacaniklic who set the tone of the match early on, the non-existent Shiner Bock keg goes to Steve Sidwell for being an old-fashioned English box-to-box midfielder. Well done you!

The View From South Texas — Fulham FC v. Sunderland AFC

Fulham Got the Black Cat Bone

No sign of John the Concheroo, however.

Today’s match was the benchmark for the rest of the season. If Fulham win today over Sunderland, then there’s a good chance for salvation at the end of the season. If Fulham DON’T win … at home … against the last place club … well, end the sentence yourself.

News flash: Fulham aren’t good enough. Sunderland came in with only five road goals all season and nearly doubled that total. I watch most Sunderland matches and I know they’ve been playing more organized and solid football, but I still thought Fulham had enough at the Cottage to shut them down. But it didn’t happen.

Much of the result must go down to a brilliant performance by Adam Johnson – who is obviously fighting for a ticket to Brazil. He played very well against United in the League Cup and did well in their last league match as well, and he was dominant today.

Much of the result must go down to systemic problems at Fulham – and specifically at Motspur Park. Fulham have two major problems that have led us to become the most goal generous opponents in the Prem: (1) We play an extremely high line despite having only one member of the back four with any pace AND we still have no midfield destroyer [well, we have one, but we don’t play him] and (2) We have no discernible scheme for defending set pieces. These two elements have contributed most to our shocking goals against tally of 46! How bad is that? As I write this, the second most generous defense – Norwich City – as given up ELEVEN FEWER GOALS. Sorry for shouting.

Yes, Stockdale had a twenty minute stretch there where he looked like he had no clue about how to keep goal. Yes, Amorebieta and Senderos proved again that they’re out worst central defensive pairing. Yes, until Dempsey provided some 2nd half assistance, Riise was completely over-matched against Johnson, but individual defensive performances aren’t the reason for today’s shameful result. Our defense is in disarray because we are not prepared well and our tactics are just flat wrong. I’m waiting for the Manchester United magic coach mojo to kick in, but perhaps he’s not the seventh son of a seventh son after all.

Fulham could have made life easier on Stockdale and the back four had they taken advantage of some good attacking work early on. Even an off-form Berbatov would have converted one of the two gilt-edged chances presented to him, and had Taarabt noticed the unmarked Dempsey instead of firing straight at Mannone, Sunderland could have been two goals down before Johnson took over. Instead it was Fulham’s own Suarez, our special one Aguero who got our goal and – but for some great reflexes from Mannone – should have had another.

In the FulhamUSA chatroom I was calling for Dejagah and Kasami for Duff and Taarabt before the start of the second half, and their introductions helped. By that time, however, Berbatov was playing with his head down and all seemed lost.

Given that we’ve sent Trotta back to Brentford and Burn back to Birmingham, it’s obvious that Fulham aren’t interested in involving our top-of-the-league U18 and U21 players in this relegation fight. Unless we already have a strong central defender, a midfield bone-cruncher, and at least one striker ready to sign in January, then the fight is going to continue to be waged by the folks we saw out there today. You know, the folks who gave up four goals to the weakest attack in the league, the folks who were completely masted by what was until the final whistle, the worst team in the league.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match? – This award might not be given again this season, considering this performance. Let’s hope I’m wrong about that, but there AINT one today.

The View From South Texas — Hull City v. Fulham FC

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to our 0-0 Result

Well, if anything positive was accomplished today, it would be that Scott Parker has wrapped up his Player of the Season award for 2013-14. Without him on the pitch, Fulham found it impossible to get the ball from defense to attack for the entire match. We’ll never know how Rodallega might have done in attack. We’ll never know how Kasami could have exploited the space created by Hugo drawing defenders to him. But we do know that there wasn’t a player on the pitch today who had the ability to make any move that threatened Hull CITY’s goal.

To be fair, it’s hard to blame the players for this one. Rene had obviously decided that the best result we could hope for was 0-0, and the first half was as drab and dire as a result. Hull City didn’t look all that threatening but, as I remarked in the FulhamUSA chatroom, the problem with a 0-0 strategy is that if you concede, Hull is damned difficult to score against. I’m looking back on that dire first half with the same longing that one might have for his first ever girlfriend. She may have been ugly at the time, but oh my god, what came after.

We conceded early in the second half, and that was that. The best then we could hope for was that Hull would pull back in defense and we could stalemate ourselves throughout the remaining second half. Instead, the Tigers engaged in what used to be known as “Jolly Stomping.” You have a completely defenseless opponent in the mud, and you don’t ever let him up. And the goals came predictably and regularly.

It’s perhaps unfair to single out players in a match like this, but only Kasami comes out of this with any positive marks. Stockdale wasn’t at fault for the first three, but the last couple were shocking. Amorebieta showed again that he doesn’t have the temperament nor the judgment to be a Premier League center half, and Bryan Ruiz well, he might have just said his farewell to us. Zverotic’s only contribution was showing us all how much we missed Riether.

And speaking of “missed,” Tom get-a-haircut Huddlestone showed what we missed when we allowed him to leave London and go to Hull. He was the best player in Yorkshire today. What could we be doing if we had his combination of grit, skill, and creativity.

So, the holiday glut of matches is the traditional separation of the contenders from the pretenders or, if you prefer, the men from the boys. We get to see just how deep the big boys are and how shallow the minnows are. We, my friends, are shallow boys, and two months of Clint Dempsey isn’t going to improve that. We need to buy well and extensively in January, and we need to relegate some of our pensioners to the shadows.

What’s next? Well, we’ve already got as many away wins as we did in Jol’s first season with us, so what we need to do now is get mean and grimy at home. Our next two league matches are against West Ham and Sunderland. These are REAL six pointers. If we win them both, we’ll be on 22 points from 21 matches and on our way to a struggling survival. If we don’t win them both, we’re in serious trouble, and we can’t count on our goal difference to see us to safety.

The view from the Lighthouse

by Lighthouse

Well as there isn’t any View from Texas from Hatter as frankly he has a life to lead. I thought I would filll in the gap.

I couldn’t be bothered to watch any sort of stream of the game. Listened to radio Five Live which did have the game on live. Turned over to watch a few minutes of the awful Star Wars film. Went back to find we were three nil down.

The usual plaudits for Liverpool but mixed in were now comments about how awful our defending and our attitude was. The same comments that some on this MB have been saying for some time now.

It is not the score line. It is not even that some of our players make the same mistake week in week out. It’s not just the lack of investment. Its simply that as a fan and supporter for more than forty years. I know I will be bored watching us play. I don’t care anymore. When we beat Palace we knew the wonder goals hid the truth.

So win or lose I shall always have a place for Fulham in my heart. It has been a big part of my life. But while we play to bore. My view is simply this. I used to be proud of Fulham. My club, win or lose, I moaned but I loved the club. Now I am bored by them. Not sure I will ever forgive the club or the manager for making me feel like this.

Fulham on the telly? Wonder what’s on the other side. And before people tell me to go off and support somebody else. I can’t like the game anymore and so have stopped watching games or highlights. I am wishing for a time when Fulham, win or lose, become fun to watch and moan about.
Until they do, we will continue to say the same things over and over again.

Fulham you are boring. Now let’s have somebody to make us worth watching
We may still not win. But not winning and still being dull and boring. Just too much.

The View From South Texas — Southampton v. Fulham FC

Fulham Fall by the Book

The way to beat Martin Jol’s Fulham is to recognize that it is an old, slow team, to recognize that its primary mode of play is to bunch the action into the middle of the pitch, and to have the discipline, talent, and determination to make Fulham uncomfortable for 90 minutes. Southampton did all of that today and came away the victors in a 2-0 match in which they really should really have scored five or six goals. 

Southampton is not the same team that was in the third tier a few seasons ago. Imagine a young, speedy squad – most of them home grown – managed by Roy Hodgson. That’s what Southampton are. They base everything on defensive steadiness, midfield organization, and opportunistic strikers. They play like a unit and they have a single aim. Today it was to pressure Fulham all over the pitch, to never allow them to get into a groove, and to grind them down. They did this and they did this well. How well? The last count I heard on shots taken was Southampton 16 Fulham 1.

How did Fulham react? Well, on the day there were only two Fulham players who gained notice for positive reasons, Ruiz and Amorebieta. Each of them could win a ball, find a teammate, and generally help move the team forward. Senderos and Riether were poor on defense, and neither Riether nor Richardson could get upfield to support an attack. As a result, Bent ran and ran and got nothing for it, while Berbatov recovered nicely from his 90 minutes of positive play against Palace, and was back to his pouting, strolling, gesticulating best. Parker, Sidwell, and Kasami were swarmed when they got the ball and all had nightmares. Stekelenberg wasn’t at fault for either goal, and his distribution improved in that he actually got a few balls to Fulham players who immediately lost possession, rather than just punting directly to a player in red.

The goals were predictable and dead easy. Absolutely nobody marked Ricky Lambert at the far post after a corner and that was that. As someone remarked in the chatroom, Berbatov was concentrating on a rather threatening blade of grass in our penalty area at the time. Jay Rodriguez got their second in an equally easy manner, when Riether left him unmarked in favor of marking … well, I couldn’t see anyone there. Lee Dixon, doing color for the NBC sports broadcast, blamed Senderos who was about 15 feet away. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of agreement from Fulham supporters about that.

If the first half was a demonstration of how a manager can prepare his side to capitalize on the weaknesses and counter the strengths of his opponents, the beginning of the second half showed once again, how SOME managers have no clue how to make halftime adjustments to get their team back in the game. The only substitution was for an injury and there was no discernable change in Fulham tactics.

Make no mistake, Southampton are a very good side. They not only benefit from the milk of their youth system – I say “the milk” because the cream is playing at Arsenal and Real Madrid at the moment – but they also signed some players from the lower levels that supporters of other teams routinely dismissed as “not Premiership quality.” When the Saints were under-performing last season, they went out and got a boss who firmed up the defense, put some spine and discipline in the midfield, and got all the players to play as a unit. Maybe it’s just me, but I think Fulham could benefit from that sort of move … AGAIN.

The thing is, that Southampton aren’t the only club out there who know how to play against Fulham. If everyone goes out with the same philosophy throughout the season, Fulham will be lucky to get 15 more points. That is, until something changes.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match – Nobody

Now please tell me we aren’t going to purposely tank the League Cup on Wednesday.

The View From South Texas — Crystal Palace v. Fulham FC

Amazing Performance as Fulham Storm Palace

This was the most enjoyable 90 minutes of football I’ve seen from Fulham in a very long time. Yes, winning by three goals on the road will make any match more enjoyable, but today’s match was all about attitude. Fulham looked ready to attack from the beginning and played aggressively the entire time. The Whites pressed all over the pitch, fought for the ball all over the pitch, and always looked to be the aggressor. Needless to say, we haven’t seen anything like this before in 2013.

Palace are a spirited team largely populated by substandard players. On this night, though, spirit wasn’t enough – or perhaps more accurately tonight Fulham’s spirit balanced out that of the Eagles and the imbalance in overall talent made the difference. Fulham never looked like being controlled, not even after Adrian Mariappa became the latest Premier League player to out-jump Brede Hangeland in the 7th minute. During the following 12 minutes, Palace’s tails were up and they expended a ton of effort that Fulham had little trouble controlling. And then came the magic.

I’ve only been playing close attention to Fulham since the 2003-04 season, and I suppose I’ve only seen about 150-200 league and cup matches since then, but Pajtim Kasami’s equalizer was – by far – the finest goal I’ve ever seen scored by a player in a Fulham shirt. Not even the 20+ touch, 9 player goal finished by Clint Dempsey against Newcastle two seasons ago comes close. Words can’t do justice to this goal, so I’m not going to try. What I will say is when you watch the replay of this goal – which I will do forever – take a look at where Kasami was when Parker got the ball. The boy essentially made his own goal. There’s an old story that in his second year in the league, George Best scored a breathtaking goal. The press room at Old Trafford was going crazy when a young reporter shouted, “Time! What’s the time of the goal?” An old hand reportedly replied, “Bugger the time, lad. Write down the date.”

The wind was truly out of The Eagle’s sails when Sidwell scored Fulham’s second shortly before half time. Ruiz’s free kick pinballed off the Palace wall and came to Steve Sidwell who scored with a glorious volley. Yes, he was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, but it was also Sidwell who won the free kick in the first place. The predictable cheer followed, sadly. I think it’s time to retire that one. We’re in the Big Boy league now.

Hangeland was replaced by Amorebieta at half time – injury? – and Fulham did NOT sit back. Instead, the Whites looked hungry for more. Dimitar Berbatov, who was all about working hard, encouraging his teammates, and creating AND exploiting space, showed in the 50th minute what a strong geezer he really is. It was pure upper body strength that allowed him to nod in Fulham’s third. Five minutes later, Philippe Senderos got into the act with a tasty little volley off yet another dead ball situation. And that was that.

Fulham looked to go for a fifth, but eventually settled down to play out the string without further excitement. Fulham scored four on the day. Going into the match they’d scored FIVE in the previous seven matches. It was a well-deserved and very well-executed demolition of an inferior neighbor. Fulham not only played up to the level of their talent, but they also played attractive, creative attacking football and, in 2013, matches this pleasurable have been very thin on the ground.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match: This is a close one for me. Senderos looked very good today, as did Sidwell, Berbatov, and Parker, but Kasamiset the tone for the team early with his relentless running, his exuberant defense, and his constant effort. Well done, Fulham’s latest full international.