Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Fulham 5 Newcastle 2

The sublime, and the ridiculous, squeezed into one and a half glorious hours. This was a game that hung on a breathless, jaw-dropping 15-minute period during which Fulham seemed able to score at will; a devastating assault that was a testament to the fortitude and skill of Fulham manager Martin Jol, who made a decisive tactical change when his team were cruising towards the rocks.

For half a game, Fulham were rotten. They oozed the torpor of a side sleepwalking into a relegation scrap. For half an game, though, they were magnificent, building an irresistible momentum that saw them turn back the tide and the Tyne. Still, this was a game that carried the faint whiff of farce with it wherever it went.

It began with a fiesta of misplaced passes and inept defending.

Philippe Senderos, preferred to Aaron Hughes at the back for Fulham, was having a particularly wretched afternoon. First he was brushed aside 25 yards out by Hatem Ben Arfa, whose shot forced a good save from David Stockdale. Then, he inexplicably challenged for an aerial ball with his own goalkeeper, Stockdale stranded as Senderos’s header drifted just wide.

He was culpable for Newcastle’s first goal, too, although only partly.

It was Bryan Ruiz who gave the ball away on the edge of his own penalty area. As Ben Arfa slipped the ball left to Danny Guthrie, Senderos failed to close, inviting the midfielder to shoot. Guthrie accepted the challenge, launching a curling shot into the top corner.

It was no more than Fulham deserved. All over the pitch, they were being outfought and out-thought. Ruiz was providing too little cover and not enough threat. Bobby Zamora was plugging away thanklessly as the lone striker.

Jol had actually decided to change things a few minutes before the Newcastle goal, taking off the hobbling Steve Sidwell and replacing him with a second striker in Andy Johnson. Johnson made his imposing presence felt almost immediately just before the break, powering past Davide Santon, who was forced to drag him down. A harsher referee than Lee Mason might have dismissed Santon, but on balance, a yellow card was the correct decision.

Johnson’s introduction, followed by the replacement of Ruiz with Chris Baird at half-time, proved a masterstroke. It gave Fulham almost a front four, with both strikers able to hold the ball up and recycle it to the onrushing Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff. Newcastle were simply not prepared for the robust barrage that greeted them, and they fell apart like a cheap Christmas toy.

Fulham levelled when Duff was bundled to the ground by Santon as he tried to control Danny Murphy’s long ball in the penalty area. Santon escaped a second yellow, but Murphy’s penalty was emphatic. Six minutes later, Johnson released Zamora, Fabricio Coloccini slipped as Zamora cut in on his left foot, and although Tim Krul parried the shot, the ball then rebounded off Dempsey and in.

These three combined again for the third goal. Zamora laid Johnson’s headed flick into the path of Dempsey, and the American finished confidently from inside the area. Next Johnson skipped clear of Mike Williamson, knocked the ball out of Krul’s reach and tumbled over the goalkeeper’s dive. Zamora took the penalty this time – goals were coming so cheaply that Fulham could afford to share them around. Krul, too, could consider himself fortunate to escape dismissal.

Ben Arfa deservedly got his name on the scoresheet when he cut in from the right wing, took advantage of John Arne Riise’s reticence in the tackle and fired in at Stockdale’s near post. But a lightning break from Fulham, Dempsey heading down Murphy’s lofted ball, chasing it himself and then crunching the ball into the corner, put the gloss on a crazy scoreline.

It is a win that lifts Fulham eight points clear of the drop zone.

Newcastle, meanwhile, missed the chance to close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to two points. Not that the home fans were too bothered about that. They were too busy being entertained.

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