Fulham Focus - Berbatov makes the perfect start to life at Craven Cottage
Once again, a sunny Craven Cottage brought out the best in Martin Jol’s men and after two consecutive defeats on the road, a return home was just the tonic for Fulham as they comfortably saw off previously unbeaten West Brom.
The star of the show was undoubtedly deadline day signing Dimitar Berbatov. Billed by Jol as "the biggest signing in Fulham’s history", the Bulgarian produced a supreme performance full of languid grace and skill to add to the ice cool finishing we have long become accustomed to.
Berbatov’s impressive full debut will have given great encouragement, not only to Jol, but to Fulham supporters who may have had fears that the side would descend into a season of struggle following their recent poor form and the loss of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey in the last few days of the transfer window.
The Cottagers were helped by the stupidity of West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie, who deservedly was shown red with the score at only 1-0 after a wild hack at Sascha Riether, but Jol will certainly not worry about that with his side now sitting comfortably in eighth place.
Berbatov may rightly get the headlines but Jol will no doubt have been hugely impressed by the exciting young Alex Kacaniklic, who lit up Craven Cottage with his tricky, direct wing play, which not only created Berbatov’s exquisite opening goal but also won the penalty on the stroke of half time that effectively killed the game.
Fulham still seem to have problems in midfield however and with Mahamadou Diarra absent, Jol’s threadbare midfield options were starkly highlighted as Steve Sidwell was partnered by Chris Baird, nominally a central defender in the middle of the park. Thankfully with the likes of Berbatov, Kacaniklic and Damien Duff in good form, the middle pair’s lack of creativity hardly impacted on proceedings.
However, what Sidwell and Baird did provide was a solid defensive platform for their side’s attacking talents to perform. The visitors may have been down to 10 men but in the likes of Shane Long, Chris Brunt, Romelu Lukaku and James Morrison, they retained the ability to cause the Fulham defence some damage. However, the Baggies found it difficult to break through Fulham’s central midfield.
Indeed, at Craven Cottage and particularly under Jol, Fulham should never lack creativity particularly in their forward line, but away from home, the Cottagers will perhaps deploy a more defensive midfield pairing, caused by the loss of Dembele and Dempsey.
This could be necessary on the road, where the Cottagers can often be far too open and particularly when Dembele played in central midfield, as fantastic as the Belgian was in driving forward with the ball, he would often leave his midfield and defence exposed.
Thus all in all, it proved a highly satisfying day at the office for Jol and his team and they can look forward to the to Wigan next week in high spirits once again.
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