Fulham survive after late drama
Fulham managed to escape relegation with just 14 minutes to spare as they won 1-0 at Portsmouth.
Last Updated: 12/05/08 8:38pm
Fulham managed to escape relegation with just 14 minutes to spare as Danny Murphy's header gave them all three points at Portsmouth.
It had looked bleak for Roy Hodgson's men as their relegation rivals took leads and they struggled to find an opening, but that one breakthrough proved enough to overcome their hosts and ensure they will be playing Premier League football next season.
In an even first 45 minutes, Fulham enjoyed plenty of possession but - an early Simon Davies effort aside - could not find a way to trouble Jamie Ashdown in the Portsmouth goal.
The hosts, meanwhile, enjoyed plenty of speculative efforts but only when Jermain Defoe chipped wide after good work from Glen Johnson did they really threaten.
The second half was not much better for the visitors, but a Jimmy Bullard free-kick found Murphy's head late on and the former England man made no mistake converting the chance from close range.
While the match was all about Fulham and their future, a win for Pompey could have given them sixth place - their best-ever Premier League finish - had Aston Villa and Blackburn both lost.
Fulham, in a red-and-black changed strip while Pompey wore a new kit of largely white with blue facings, were first to threaten.
Pompey had an early let-off when a Paul Stalteri cross found Simon Davies, whose shot appeared to brush a post before going behind, with Ashdown struggling to get across.
Pompey toiled to make an impact in the opening 10 minutes but could not find a way through.
But when Bullard handled in a clash with Pedro Mendes 30 yards out, Niko Kranjcar drilled a low free-kick through the Fulham wall in the 18th minute and keeper Kasey Keller had to hang on tight with strikers following up.
Fulham's Clint Dempsey looked hopefully at referee Mark Clattenburg when he went down in the Pompey box two minutes later, but Hermann Hreidarsson's challenge did not even appear to make contact and the official waved protests away.
Portsmouth fluttered into life again and Kanu had a shot charged down just inside the area by big Brede Hangeland, enabling Paul Konchesky to clear.
Fulham fans packed behind Keller's goal in the first half were in grim mood after hearing Birmingham had gone ahead against Blackburn and almost felt even worse when John Utaka broke through in the 33rd minute, but he drove his shot wide of both the keeper and the far post.
Fulham's early fire appeared to be dying as Lassana Diarra and Pedro Mendes began to get a grip for Pompey on midfield, while Glen Johnson's runs from right-back and his ability to release telling passes were also beginning to have an effect.
But when Johnson came roaring through the centre to provide Defoe with a perfect through-ball, the Pompey marksman lost his composure and rifled a golden chance over the bar.
There was a collective sigh of relief from the Fulham fans, but by now their own side was seeing less and less of the ball in Pompey's half.
And just seconds later it needed a superb tackle by Clint Dempsey on the edge of his own area to deprive Defoe of another opportunity - just before Pedro Mendes shot narrowly side.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Keller had to field shots from Kranjcar and Defoe in as Pompey restarted like a team desperate to make amends for three successive defeats.
But Fulham kept going and Pompey were playing a dangerous game, giving away too many free-kicks for petty fouls which opened up opportunities from Bullard's free-kicks.
The visitors were lucky, though, that Kranjcar's 56th-minute piledriver from Kanu's pass 25 yards out was not either side of Keller, who was able to fling up a hand and beat it away.
When Distin headed dangerously towards his own goal in a goalmouth melee caused by Kamara's cross, Pompey were fortunate to escape, but the strong heat appeared to be having a debilitating effect on both sides and quality football was rare.
And when Bullard's latest free kick sailed into the area in the 76th minute, Pompey generously left Murphy all the room and time he needed to steer a simple header home and send the fans behind the goal wild with delight.An extra three minutes stoppage time at the end must have shredded a few nerves, but Portsmouth did little to threaten and Fulham never looked vulnerable.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||4|