Fulham win frenzied clash
By Tom Adams. Last Updated: 07/05/05 4:55pm
Whilst there was nominally nothing at stake in this 3-1 win for Fulham over Blackburn, neither side let up in an extraordinary game that saw two dismissals and a missed penalty.
The first half saw Steed Malbranque equal Lucas Neill's opener, although it was the second period that saw the tie catch fire as Brian McBride and Malbranque again scored either side of Edwin van der Sar palming away Robbie Savage's spot kick.
Luis Boa Morte also sparked two moments of madness as his challenge on Ryan Nelsen ushered in a two-minute spell that saw Craig Short and Liam Rosenior dismissed for almost identical pushing incidents - as the nature of the full-blooded battle belied any fears of a dreary non-consequential encounter.
Blackburn started with verve, and looked useful down the flanks as Brett Emerton played in Steven Reid to whip in a dangerous cross - only for Alain Goma to be on hand to clear with Short, in his first game of 2005, arriving at the back post.
Rovers were playing with a real energy and attacking intent in the early stages, and were granted a reward for their efforts as Neill dispatched wonderfully after just six minutes.
It was a move born in Australia as Emerton slid in a ball to the marauding right back, who skipped round the defender and beat van der Sar with a low shot past his right glove.
However Fulham were keen not to lie down and looked to force their way back into the contest when Lee Clark shot from range - although Nelsen was on hand to put in a decent block for the home side.
Malbranque, only just welcomed back into the squad after showing contrition for his tantrum against Everton, was pulling the strings for the London outfit and restored parity on 20 minutes.
The goal was created by a delightful chipped pass from Moritz Volz that released Clark, who, whilst the Blackburn defence and crowd anticipated offside, found the Frenchman with a neat cutback which he dispatched easily past Brad Friedel.
Jon Stead then nearly ended his home duck as he received a fantastic pass from Morten Gamst Pedersen in acres of space and came inside Goma before curling his left foot shot wide of the post.
As Blackburn continued to pressure Nelsen failed to connect cleanly with a header when well placed from a Pedersen free kick - before Malbranque stabbed over at the other end when Neill's sloppy play gifted him the ball ten yards out.
As the match threatened to degenerate into the physical war of attrition anticipated, Mark Hughes' side drove on and both Stead and Pedersen should have headed in a Savage set-piece whilst van der Sar pulled off a superb diving save to deny a long-range Aaron Mokoena effort.
The break seemed to revitalise Fulham, as Malbranque drove from range and Zat Knight saw a header disallowed before McBride edged them in front.
The American striker had won a corner as Nils Eric Johansson put in a good interception to stop him getting a shot in, and he found Blackburn's marking wanting at the back post as he chested down the subsequent set-piece and drove low to beat Friedel.
An electric start to the second period continued as Emerton hit the near post when Pedersen found him unmarked, and Rovers then had the perfect opportunity to draw level when they were awarded a penalty by referee Phil Dowd.
Boa Morte manhandled Pedersen in the box although Savage's spot kick was kept out by a tremendous save from van der Sar - the Dutch shot-stopper diving to his right and stretching to claw away the strike.
Two minutes of pure chaos then ensued, as the game turned on an atrocious tackle from Boa Morte which precipitated two dismissals.
The Portuguese winger was the protagonist with a two-footed lunge on Nelsen although he remarkably stayed on the pitch - but Short was not so lucky as he reacted angrily and shoved Boa Morte to the ground to earn himself an early bath.
Just a minute later Savage sought retribution with a strong challenge on Boa Morte, although again it was the reaction provoked that was the cause of the dismissal as Rosenior came steaming in and saw red for pushing the Welshman to the ground.
The excitement refused to let up, and Blackburn were left ruing their inability to finish as Fulham extended the lead just after Stead could not convert when presented with a good chance.
It was Malbranque again who was the key to unlocking the Blackburn back-line, as he played a neat one-two with Clark to burst into the box before composing himself and flicking in a beautiful right-foot finish past Friedel.
Adrenaline was coursing through the veins of every player on the pitch as the tackles flew in hard and fast, but Stead would have been hoping for an ounce more composure as he volleyed just wide.
Blackburn were pushing for an unlikely comeback and went close again through Stead, Emerton and Savage although they could not find a way through as Chris Coleman's side prevailed amidst a crazed second 45 minutes.
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|Blackburn Rovers||Team Name||Fulham|
|2||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||4|
|8||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||2|
|13||Total Fouls Conceded||23|
Barclays Premier League
Sat 7th May
Chelsea1 - 0Charlton
Portsmth1 - 1Bolton
C Palace2 - 2So'ton
Norwich1 - 0Birm'ham
M'boro1 - 0Tottenham
Blackburn1 - 3Fulham
Everton2 - 0Newcastle
A Villa1 - 2Man City
Man Utd1 - 1W Brom
Barclays Premier League
|7||West Ham United||22||36|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||22||22|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||22||19|