Martin Jol has Giorgos Karagounis to thank after his fantastic volleyed finish rescued Fulham from yet another early cup exit. After falling foul of Championship opposition in the form of Sheffield Wednesday in their second-round exit from the Capital One Cup earlier this season, Ludovic Sylvestre’s 60th minute opener for Blackpool at Craven Cottage looked set to send the Tangerines through to the fourth round of the FA Cup at the expense of their Premier League opponents.
However, Greek veteran Karagounis, who has hardly made a huge impact at the club since his arrival on a free transfer in October, finally showed some of the qualities that has seen him win 122 caps for his country by scoring a spectacular equaliser to help earn his side a replay.
As stunning as the goal was, it should not mask yet another disappointing afternoon for the men from West London. It was hoped that the impressive New Years’ Day victory at West Brom would help kickstart a season that was in danger of stalling alarmingly, with a cup game at home to lower league opposition providing further opportunity for progress.
The Craven Cottage faithful have been starved of a good cup run in recent years and with their side once again looking at a mid to lower mid-table finish in the Premier League once again, a run to the later stages of the FA Cup would have at least provided the fans with just that little something to look forward to towards the end of the season.
However, the Cottagers now face the prospect of a replay at Bloomfield Road and considering their meagre record on the road for nigh on 12 seasons now since their arrival into the Premier League, that could simply prove a step too far for Martin Jol’s men despite their greater experience.
No one could accuse the Dutchman of not taking the FA Cup seriously however. Certainly, a team that contains the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Ashkan Dejagah, Bryan Ruiz, Alex Kacaniklic, as well as skipper Brede Hangeland at the back should have been more than good enough to carve out the victory. Indeed, Ruiz could well have won it for his side towards the end only to see his header crash against the bar.
Clearly what Fulham need are greater options and fast. A new central midfielder is simply a must as for all of the quality of Karagounis’ leveller, Jol simply cannot expect to continue to rely on the 35-year-old to drag his side from the depths. Of course, new Moussa Dembeles are not plentiful and certainly not for the kind of money that Fulham have to spend.
However, Jol will hope that Chris David, the 19-year-old midfielder signed from FC Twente last week will go some way to finally filling the chasm opened by the late departure of the talismanic Dembele and at least take some of the pressure off Karagounis, Steve Sidwell and Chris Baird in the middle of the park.
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