Fulham finally find the back of the net as Newcastle tumble to another loss
Newcastle and Alan Pardew’s plight in the Premier League went from bad to worse, as the Magpies were shot down on a cold London evening at Craven Cottage. The Newcastle team seems to be the bookmaker’s best friend. Last season, as everyone was tipping them to be down and fighting to avoid relegation, they somehow defied the odds and were bundled out of the last Champions League spot only on the last day of the campaign. This year, as the punters and pundits praised them for their prudence in the transfer market, another Newcastle decided to show up. The one that is now 14th in the table, only 4 points above the dreaded relegation zone. As Newcastle have already learnt previously, no team is too good to go down. The place in the Premier League is earned, not given.
Going into the match, it was the tale of two clubs out of form, as Fulham had failed to find the back of the net for more than 5 hours, while Newcastle had lost 4 of their previous encounters and were still searching for that elusive first away win of the campaign.
It was the London side that went off on front foot from the start, as the Newcastle midfield was over-run, Steve Sidwell and Chris Baird each putting in a great shift while Cheick Tiote looked as lost as Paris Hilton in a goat farm. Kacaniklic was put in the clear as early as in the second minute only to lose his footing under a challenge from the Newcastle skipper Coloccini. The referee could have easily deferred otherwise, and Newcastle could have been down to ten.
While Fulham dominated the centre of the midfield, Kacaniklic on the left, along with Duff and Riether on the right, gave the Magpies’ full backs nightmares on either flanks. Then, on 19 minutes, Steve Sidwell finally broke Fulham’s duck, as his cross-cum shot got a lucky deflection from Mike Williamson, hit the cross bar and swooped in while a hapless Tim Krul could only watch in despair. The goal again was engineered by nifty movement on the right. Coloccini seemed to have averted the danger by a timely challenge on the ex-Magpie Damien Duff but the ball kindly to Steve Sidwell who had lady luck smiling at him.
The first 30 minutes were a footballing lesson that the home team dished out to Newcastle, as they looked in rampant mood. An error from Tiote sold Coloccini short as Berbatov nutmegged him and went through clear on goal, but a superb save from Dutch international Tim Krul saved the blushes of the away side just a minute after the first goal.
If the Magpies thought the onslaught was over, Berbatov was on hand this time to remind Newcastle of the eminent danger that the Londoners still possessed on 28 minutes, as a dink to the far post by Rodallega was met by the Bulgarian, who came close to doubling their lead but for a vital block from Simpson.
The game got stretched as the half an hour mark drew close. Newcastle were growing in confidence as they reverted to a 4-2-4 for a few minutes. A deflected shot from Gutierrez drew a corner for Newcastle on the 31 minute mark. A superbly executed corner saw Coloccini attack the ball, coming in from more than 10 yards outside the box while the other Newcastle threats had drawn defenders away from the spot. The Argentine’s bullet of a header was meant for the top corner until Riether came to deny the Magpies their equaliser.
Mark Schwarzer really wasn’t looking his usual self, as his kicking left a lot to be desired. Just as the half was drawing to a close, the Aussie goalkeeper fluffed his lines again, and the ball fell to Ba at the far post, who again was denied by Riether.
Newcastle went into the second half looking to overturn a very poor record. Newcastle hadn’t won any of the last 60 PL games where they’d been trailing at half-time (stretching back to December ’06) and at the end it remained that way. The away team pushed on the accelerator early on the second half and were rewarded for their efforts as their French magician Hatem BenArfa drew the sides level with a wonderful strike from the edge of the box.
However, Newcastle’s joy was short lived as Fulham hit back within ten minutes. Cheick Tiote again showed his naivety as he fouled substitute Ashkan Dejagah in a very dangerous area around the box. A pin point delivery from Damien Duff was met by Hugo Rodallega, who had created a yard of space between him and his marker. Tim Krul was left stranded with nothing he could do. The rest of the half was characterized by desperate Newcastle attacks and Fulham counters. Coloccini came close for the Magpies as his curling effort that seemed destined for the top left hand corner rebounded off the angle of the post. If not for Tim Krul, the scoreline would have been much worse as Fulham had numerous opportunities to improve upon the scoreline.
Carol singers surely did welcome the Newcastle players to Craven Cottage, but the club’s fans didn’t leave with any festive cheer. Newcastle have now dug themselves a deep hole heading into another tough fixture at home against Manchester City. Lack of cover for injuries to the squad and mistakes, especially in the defensive half have lead them into a tricky situation and have kept their fans eagerly awaiting the January transfer window which is rapidly approaching.
Fulham on the other hand see their scoring drought come to an end as Rodallega and Sidwell’s goals saw them home. What would be most heartening for Martin Jol would be the improved defence. Hangeland’s presence changes the complexion of the team and serves well for the Cottagers going forward.