Pavel Pogrebnyak celebrated his return to the Russian squad by dominating a disintegrating Wolves defense on the way to Fulham’s 5-0 defeat of the storied Midlands team. Our new number seven now has 5 goals from his first three starts with the club, and suddenly the disappointing January transfer window looks genius in retrospect.
Fulham dominated for all of the 90 minutes – only the second time this has happened all season. Although it looked as if Riise would be the first to score, it was Pogrebnyak who converted a Duff corner by powering a pile-driving header past Hennessy. It was clean and clinical, but how did Wolves manage to allow Fulham’s lead striker so much space to convert so easily? Pog got his second off a wonderful counter attacking move that resulted from a Wolves defender surrendering possession at the midfield stripe. Andrew Johnson was off in an instant and stretched the remaining defense wide enough so that his sharp cross was converted by Pogrebnyak with a crisp right-foot volley. Fulham had finally scored a second goal just before half time. Certainly this would be enough for me to relax and enjoy the rest of the match. Of course not; I’m a Fulham supporter.
I fully expected Connor to change things up – specifically in defense – at the half. Wolves have, after all, accumulated more points after falling behind than anyone else in the Barclay’s Premier League. Just last weekend they overcame a 2-0 deficit to share the spoils with Newcastle. And, as we all know, whenever Fulham have dominated the first half against a weak opponent, we come out after the interval timid and tentative. Well, not so much of that today.
The Mad Russian completed his hat-trick with a Dempsey-ish effort. Our Late President found himself clear in the center of attack and hammered a shot that Hennessy could only parry with his legs. Pogrebnyak nipped in to convert the rebound with the outside of his left foot. This completed the “natural hat-trick,” and it was left only for Dempsey to “score with his left” and “score with his right” and make Wolverhampton look … well, look as if they well and truly belonged in the bottom three.
Heroes abounded for The Mighty Whites today. The back four was solid – Hughes dealing with the ever-present threat of Matt Jarvis better than most right backs in the league have, Hangeland and Senderos quelling whatever threat came through the middle, and Riise complementing his resolute defensive work by being a constant attacking threat down Fulham’s left wing. You can’t emphasize enough the importance of Riise’s contribution to our attack today. By running the left wing so relentlessly, he drew the defense wide and opened up plenty of space in the middle for Dempsey and Dembélé.
Dempsey had a bit of mid-week joy of his own, of course, and played the match pretty much as a withdrawn striker. This is perhaps his best role, and his runs were picked up and exploited by Danny Murphy. The captain’s assist on Dempsey’s first was nothing short of brilliant. Duff had a relatively quiet match, but he was certainly up for it. He consistently got Hughes into the attack in good positions, and cut in well for a few shots of his own. Moussa Dembélé was absolutely brilliant the entire match. What a performance! I was tempted to give him Hatter Don’s Man of the Match, but I knew I’d hear from my friend down the road if I ignored the hat-trick hero. Oh, and welcome to Mamadou Diarra. I almost fell off the couch laughing when his first ever touch of the ball resulted in the Hammersmith End urging him to “shoot.” He looks useful, and it was a nice interplay with Dempsey that resulted in Clint’s second and Fulham’s fifth.
Speaking of which, Pogrebnyak had a marvelous game. His work in front of goal was clinical and efficient, but his hold-up work and his distribution were, as they say in American Mike’s part of the country, “cherce.” He’s the real deal, and I think he just sealed his place on the Russian squad for Euro 2012 today. If we can keep him at The Cottage for next season, I will be one very happy Texan. Andrew Johnson was brilliant all day as well, collecting two assists [really should have been three in a 6-0 defeat] and driving Wolves’ defense absolutely spare. I never tire of seeing the absolute joy on his face when we score. Good stuff for Our Late President.
Oh, and just in case you went to the loo in the 92nd minute, Schwarzer made a save.
As for Wolves, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so toothless and – truth be told – lifeless. There seemed to be no communication among the defenders and their five-man midfield was pretty much dominated by Murphy and Dembélé, leaving Duff and Dempsey to run riot. I know that Connor is new, but I wonder that it took him so long to get Fletcher and Hunt into the game. Of all Wolves’ players, they would have reacted to Fulham’s mauling with a bit more resolution.
So, yeah, a great match. 90 consistently brilliant minutes, and good performances, communication, aggression, and – especially – passing. We looked very good out there. Wolves’ poor performance was 90% our determination and consistency.
HatterDon’s Man of the Match is Pavel Pogrebnyak who is, of course, okay.
On to Villa Park and COYW!