In hindsight, this was the perfect away game for Fulham to get their first victory on the road this season. The Cottagers, being an attacking outfit with the talents of Dimitar Berbatov, Hugo Rodallega, Bryan Ruiz, Damien Duff and Alex Kakaniclic at their disposal, were always going to take advantage of the space a similarly attractive side such as Wigan affords them. In such contests, if the team with the better players are anywhere near their best, then that team should come out on top. That is precisely what happened at the DW Stadium.
Despite some nervous moments, particularly in the second-half when Arouna Kone and Mauro Boselli missed some gilt-edged chances for the Latics with the score at only 0-1, Martin Jol’s men always seemed to carry the greater threat, particularly through the brilliant Berbatov and Rodallega, who inevitably marked his return to Wigan with his first goal for Fulham.
However, Jol will take great confidence from the way his team did not buckle under the pressure and instead came away comfortable winners despite the rather tight 2-1 scoreline. Berbatov in particular was mesmeric and appears to have added a modicum of hard work and desire to his game that has been absent in recent years. Whether that continues as time goes on and at 31-years-old remains to be seen but the Bulgarian’s presence has undoubtedly lifted his teammates and the Fulham fans just when the season threatened to turn sour for the Cottagers.
Rodallega’s first goal for the club could also prove a key moment for Fulham’s season. Mladen Petric may have got the headlines so far following his goals against Norwich on the opening day but the Croatian will turn 32 in January and lacks what Rodallega brings to the team: Pace. The Colombia international may be an erratic finisher but the likes of Berbatov, Duff and Ruiz are not the quickest and so the ability to call upon a confident and in-form Rodallega up front to stretch defences, thus creating more space for Berbatov behind him, is vital for the Cottagers.
Jol will know not to get carried away despite Fulham’s good run, which briefly saw them enter the Champions League places on Saturday afternoon. Particularly, the Dutchman will be aware that tougher tests away from home lie ahead for his team. The Wigan victory may have been a welcome one but Fulham were always likely to thrive against a team that plays Wigan’s style of football. What the Cottagers will struggle with more is the kind of bombastic aerial threat and power that West Ham and Andy Carroll used to such effect in Fulham’s last defeat.
However, with a home match against a shaky Manchester City side to come next Saturday, Fulham will be confident of getting a positive result to continue their run of good form.
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