I forgot that I had some volunterring to do shortly after the second half started, so this is as quick as I was able to get this report up. MAN, it’s nice to be doing match reports again.
Nice Day for a Stroll
Bathed in warm summer sunshine, Fulham fought off that “at the beach” feeling to demolish a very poor Norwich side 5-0. The goals went to Petrić, Duff, Petrić, Kacaniklic, and Sidwell (penalty). Schwarzer enjoyed his 141st Premier League clean sheet, and if he had an easier one, at his age he probably can’t remember it.
How poor were Norwich? Very poor. They were easily bossed around in midfield, toothless in attack, and their chief defensive tactic appeared to be maintaining a high line, and then turning and watching Fulham attackers hare towards goal. If England manager Roy Hodgson came to the Cottage to watch Ruddy and Holt, he certainly went away disappointed. Holt commanded some airspace, but did nothing with it, and Ruddy confirmed the absolute truth of England’s weakness in goal. If he can be capped and considered to be part of England’s future, then England is in serious trouble. I’m sure, by the way, that Hodgson didn’t come to watch Fulham, as there wasn’t an Englishman in sight all day until Sidwell came on – as the third substitute – with about seven minutes left. He didn’t have time to do much, but dispatched his penalty very well.
How good were Fulham? Perhaps the better question would be “how aggressive were Fulham.” Fulham took control of the game shortly after kickoff and maintained that control for 90+ minutes. Diarra, Dembélé, and Ruiz commanded the midfield so well that the back four and Tha Big Aussie had very little to do. I think Mark had to make two saves and, in his only action of the first half, fisted away a high cross. There were several players who caught my eye early and never allowed me to look away from them subsequently. Riise screamed down the left wing more in the first half today than he did in any month last season. His aggression and Special K’s trickiness caused Norwich no end of trouble in protecting their right flank. Ruiz still has good feet and a great pass on him, but he’s added something else this season: he is much quicker and is much more difficult to nudge off the ball. I think it’s fair to say that, based on what we saw today, Fulham will lean very heavily on Ruiz and Diarra – the latter playing as close to a perfect game as I’ve seen in many a moon.
And then there are the new guys. Petrić looks like the complete forward. He holds the ball well, distributes it well, defends very well in the box, nicks the ball smoothly and very much knows where the goal is. He more than earned his brace, and put more into the side than he took out of it. Riether surprised me early on with his pace. He attacks well up the right and his defensive positioning struck me as disciplined and knowledgeable. I think Kelly edges him defensively, but Riether is more of a complete player. Rodallega didn’t get much of a chance to do anything, coming on as he did in the 67th minute, but he didn’t look slow or indecisive, and that’s a good thing.
I was especially pleased to see Pajtim Kasami enter the fray. He didn’t perform as well as the man he replaced, but the man he replaced was Damien Duff, so that’s no shame. Let’s hope he doesn’t get buried again this season. He’s nowhere near the finished product, but he’s getting there. Closer to a finished product is Kacaniklic. He’s a legitimate left winger, a huge upgrade over the very good Kerim Frei, and he’s not afraid to take a crack. I didn’t see anything to criticize in his performance.
So, a good day for a walk in the park turned out to be a walk in the park. As usual, I haven’t read any reports or even looked at the other final scores, but I expect we’ll be top of the league at the end of the weekend. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and today’s result against the side I figure to finish 20th doesn’t make us a behemoth, but we’ve often struggled or seemed to be happy with a 1-0 at home and a 0-0 on the road against teams like this. Today, we went for the throat from the off, and ripped at it time and again. In the last 7 or 8 seasons, I’ve seen Fulham play “the perfect game” twice in the Premier League – that is (1) making no serious mistakes and (2) everything we tried to do worked. This was true at the Cottage at home to QPR last season. It was true today.
There were entirely too many stellar performances on the pitch today to award a single player man of the match, so Hatter Don’s Man of the Match goes to the man who chose the squad and put the 14 players out on the pitch. Martin Jol; well done that man.