Newspaper round-up: Sunderland v Fulham

To be honest I couldn’t bring myself to post anything yesterday. Despite gaining a point away, the manner in which we lost the chance to haul ourselves clear of the relegation dog fight was thoroughly depressing, yet weirdly predictable…Anyhow, here is how the main news outlets saw our match against the Black Cats…

Roy Keane has mellowed in management, insisted Martin Hardy in The People, but he still instills “the fear of God” into his players in the closing stages of a game they are losing. “Yet again, Sunderland dragged themselves from the jaws of defeat in the final minutes of a game to grab a point they barely deserved.”

Indeed, the first 45 minutes were “perhaps the most insipid seen under Keane”, agreed Simon Williams in The Guardian. “Fulham, though, did not capitalise fully and, although Simon Davies gave them the lead with a delicious curling free-kick after fooling goalkeeper Craig Gordon into thinking he was going to cross, they did not kill Sunderland off. David Healy had their best chance but the Northern Ireland international somehow managed to put a first-time shot wide of an unguarded net.”

Even so, it was the home side’s supporters whose belief was being “stretched for the first time under Keane” by the interval, wrote George Caulkin in The Times, as without the likes of Dwight Yorke, Paul McShane and Carlos Edwards, they lacked quality. “By contrast, Fulham looked classy and confident,” he noted. “As their supporters crowed: ‘We’re winning away, we’re winning away. How s*** must you be? We’re winning away’.”

The Black Cats’ plight seemingly deepened when right-back Greg Halford was sent off for his second bookable foul 20 minutes from time – but it was the visitors who crumbled, according to The Sun, which claimed: “The most amazing thing about this clash of possible relegation candidates was the way the Cottagers once again capsized after going ahead.”

And the man who supplied the killer blow was Sunderland’s £6m hitman Kenwyne Jones, wrote Brian Mcnally in the Sunday Mirror. “A third home defeat of the campaign against a moderate Fulham outfit was very much on the cards until Jones managed to plant a bullet header past Antti Niemi from Grant Leadbitter’s searching cross.”

The result means Fulham have drawn six of their 11 Premier League games this season, reflected The Guardian’s Simon Williams, yet it could have been even worse for the away side. “The substitute, Anthony Stokes, should have won the game for Sunderland in stoppage time but a dreadful first touch allowed Niemi to narrow the angle and save with his legs.”

However, the way the match ended left Fulham manager, Lawrie Sanchez, admitting that his “overwhelming emotion” was sadness, according to the Independent on Sunday’s Simon Rushworth, who quoted him as saying: ‘It depresses me. Our failure to win games is getting to be a bit of a problem scenario that we need to sort out.’

Newspaper round-up: Fulham v Derby

Here is how the major news outlets saw our draw at home to Derby:

Billy Davies should have celebrated Derby’s first away win but 10-man Fulham survived an onslaught – so he had a pop at Lawrie Sanchez instead, according to Antony Kastrinakis in The Sun. “Amazingly Cottagers boss Sanchez claimed Fulham outplayed Derby in the second half and that Davies was begging the ref for the final whistle, yet such was Derby’s dominance that Fulham keeper Antti Niemi was by far the best man on the pitch,” he wrote. “It was right that Rams chief Davies mocked Sanchez and suggested the bespectacled Londoners boss should buy…a pair of specs.”

Despite their long injury list, the home side made five changes from the side beaten 2-0 by Portsmouth a fortnight earlier, pointed out Colin Malam in the Telegraph, and the best decision was restoring the Finnish stopper to the starting line-up. “A dire first half is easily summarised,” he wrote. “With defensive midfielder Dean Leacock launching attacks intelligently from deep, Derby looked a half decent side. Twice Niemi had to save at his near post, from Kenny Miller then Eddie Lewis, before frantically stopping Aaron Hughes heading an own goal from a Stephen Pearson cross.”

The low autumn sun that shone over Craven Cottage meant those watching in the Johnny Haynes stand had to shield their eyes if they wished to see any of the action, noted Evan Fanning in The Independent, but at times they needn’t have bothered. “For two teams supposedly battling for their lives it was a decidedly underwhelming affair, which only came to life when Fulham’s Paul Konchesky was sent off just before half-time.”

This clash had been pencilled in as a must-win by Sanchez, but the flash of temper by his left back which led to an instant red card left him looking at the scoreline as a point gained rather than two surrendered, agreed Steve Stammers in the Sunday Mirror. “Paul Konchesky was once talked of as a defender with the potential to be an England regular,” he added. “Yesterday he showed the maturity and responsibility of an errant teenager as he let his team down just when they needed him most – and illustrated just why he will remain a two-cap wonder.”

Despite his early departure from the game, which happened on the stroke of half-time, Fulham “coped well”, according to The Mail on Sunday’s Simon Cass, although it was the “man-of-the-match performance” from Niemi that prevented the visitors from claiming their second Premier League victory.

It also helped spare the team from “an even louder burst of derision than the hearty booing which assailed them as they left the field”, noted David Lacey in The Guardian. “Fulham have produced some sound performances this season but their only league win was back in mid-August and on Saturday they clearly lacked confidence.”

The Sun’s Kastrinakis insisted there were no positives for Fulham from the result – despite the fact it was achieved with 10 men – and suggested it was “nothing short of a disaster” to draw at home against a side which was bottom of the league and with a woeful away record. “With fellow strugglers Sunderland and Reading up next Fulham are fast running out of games where they can realistically expect to pick up enough points to pull themselves away,” he added. “It’s crunch time.”

Newspaper round-up: Fulham v Portsmouth

If you can bear to read any more about our miserable defeat, here is a summary of how the major news outlets saw the game, along with links to the relevant articles.

Lawrie Sanchez likes to affect an immunity from pressure, but the skies were darkening over Craven Cottage last night as Fulham, filleted by a resurgent Portsmouth, slipped into the bottom three, reflected Oliver Brown in the Daily Telegraph. “For such a shrewd financier as (Mohamed Al) Fayed, the mathematics of his move to appoint Sanchez make discouraging reading – around £27 million was lavished on Fulham during the summer, yet the man charged with realising that investment has won only three of his first 15 games.”

The visitors couldn’t manage seven goals this week but two deflected strikes early in the second half at Craven Cottage were more than enough to send Harry Redknapp’s team up to fifth in the Premier League, wrote Nick Szczepanik in The Times. “Apart from a first-half effort from David Healy, which was straight at David James, the goalkeeper, Fulham hardly troubled a Portsmouth defence that was unrecognisable as the rearguard that was shaky in last weekend’s 7-4 victory over Reading.”

It had started off so well for the Cottagers, pointed out Football365, which meant Pompey’s two-minute double was “as dramatic as it was unexpected”. Fulham had “taken charge” in the first 45 minutes and were threatening a rare win. “With Clint Dempsey leading the attack in swashbuckling style and Simon Davies and Hameur Bouazza providing pace on the wings, Fulham were clearly the better side in the first half.”

All that was to change early in the second 45 minutes, wrote Glenn Moore in The Independent. “Four minutes after the interval Benjani took a pass from Sean Davis on the edge of the Fulham area, half-turned Bocanegra and beat Keller with a shot which skidded off the sole of the defender’s boot.”

Keller was picking the ball out of his net again two minutes latter, pointed out Matt Barlow in the Daily Mail. “Hreidarsson won the ball on the Pompey left, exchanged passes with Kranjcar and stormed into the penalty area for a shot which again took a crucial deflection, this time off Chris Baird. Fulham had little to offer as they sank into the relegation zone and were jeered off by their fans.”

His free-scoring team-mates will get the credit, pointed out Darren Lewis in the Mirror, but James was the “platform for this fabulous win” as he put on a “superb display” to enhance his claims on the England shirt for the next round of Euro 2008 qualifiers. “It was his series of saves and stops from David Healy, Clint Dempsey and Diomansy Kamara that took the wind out of Fulham’s sails and inspired Pompey to tear the home side apart.”

So where does this leave us? Well, early in April Fulham sat four points clear of the relegation zone, having gone seven games without a win, and Al Fayed claimed he was left with no alternative but to sack Chris Coleman, pointed out David Ornstein in The Guardian. “Six months on and Al Fayed’s club find themselves inside the bottom three and have again not tasted victory for seven games. Lawrie Sanchez, Coleman’s replacement, should be a worried man.” Indeed he should.

Newspaper round-up: Chelsea v Fulham

Were we actually playing on Saturday? You’d be hard pressed to know from reading the newspapers over the weekend – and today. Predictably, every piece focused on the trials of our friends up the road, speculation about Roman, Avram and Jose, and endless discussions surrounding Drogba’s sending-off and Terry’s trip to casualty…Anyway, here’s what the major media outlets made of the match.

Chelsea’s season hit rock-bottom yesterday, wrote Rob Beasley in the News of The World, with a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham in which “Didier Drogba was sent off, John Terry suffered a fractured cheekbone and the players were booed by their own fans”.

Even though Avram Grant narrowly avoided the ignominy of losing his first home match after succeeding Mourinho, it was hard to imagine a more calamitous first day in front of his own supporters, agreed Paul Newman in The Independent.

“In the end Grant must have felt grateful to emerge with a point, even if the boos at the final whistle made it seem like a loss,” he wrote. “Mourinho had been unbeaten in all his 60 home Premier League matches in charge of Chelsea, and it would have been a huge blow to his successor’s credibility if he had started his Stamford Bridge career with a defeat.”

The Mail on Sunday’s Ian Ridley thought the tone was set in the first minute when Andriy Shevchenko “ballooned Salomon Kalou’s low cross over the bar”, and soon afterwards “challenged Drogba” for the same pass from Claude Makele.

But it got worse. “From a free-kick 30 yards out, Shevchenko drove the ball low and straight into a two-man wall before turning another low cross from Kalou wide at the near post,” added Ridley. “When he did get a weak shot on target, the Fulham fans gave an ironic cheer.”

One of the papers must mention our boys in a minute…Ah! Here we go.

Lawrie Sanchez’s men hadn’t managed to keep a clean sheet so far this season, but there was no great secret to how they extracted this one, thought Duncan Castles in The Observer: “Organised and resolute defensively, Fulham thwarted a Chelsea side long on attackers but short on the cohesion that was once their trademark.”

Fulham certainly defended with spirit, agreed Newman in The Independent, who also pointed out that Dempsey had the best early chance, heading wide. “Aaron Hughes and Carlos Bocanegra were rocks at the centre of defence, while Alexey Smertin and Steven Davis gave as good as they got in the centre of midfield,” he wrote.

It wasn’t until the second half that Chelsea threatened, opined Joe Lovejoy in the Sunday Times, when Joe Cole sprinted to the byline on the right and delivered a cross which invited Kalou to score. “He seemed to have done so, at close range, only for (Kasey) Keller to spirit the ball away, via his right-hand post”.

But they couldn’t get through, and when Drogba was dismissed – after receiving a second yellow for a high boot on Chris Baird – the visitors began to “scent three points”, added the Mail on Sunday’s Ridley.

“Paul Konchesky burst through and Petr Cech saved his shot with a foot,” he reported. “Substitute Diomansy Kamara then screwed a shot across goal and Dempsey narrowly failed to turn it home as Fulham finished strongly.”

These were two “glorious chances” for the visitors, added Julian Bennetts in the Sunday Telegraph. “Defeat would have been harsh on Grant on his side,” he wrote. “But , on a day when just about everything that could go wrong did, he must be thankful for small mercies”.

Late news from the hospital confirmed that Terry had a depressed fracture of the cheekbone, but it was not the only thing depressed, noted Shaun Custis in The Sun, as “40,000 Blues supporters felt the same way”.

Newspaper round-up: Fulham v Bolton

Here’s how the daily newspapers saw our exit from the cup last night, along with links to the relevant articles.

If there is one thing that angers Lawrie Sanchez it is bad refereeing decisions, wrote Dean Jones in The Times, and the Fulham manager had plenty to complain about last night. A goal from Stelios Giannakopoulos decided the tie, but it was controversial as he appeared to push Paul Konchesky before scoring. “However it was a disallowed effort from Diomansy Kamara that infuriated Sanchez the most,” he added. “The forward nudged the ball over the line after 97 minutes from a pass across goal by David Healy, only for Steve Bennett to rule out the strike on the advice of his assistant.”

TV replays proved the officials were wrong, agreed Darren Lewis in The Mirror, who quoted Sanchez as saying: “I’m getting fed up with refs who come to little Fulham and disallow good goals for no apparent reason. Kamara was two yards onside when Healy hit it. It’s another goal a referee hasn’t given us. It’s bloody ridiculous. These refs are costing us week in, week out. They’re not up to the job and something has to be done about it.”

Bolton had taken the lead through Danny Guthrie, making his first appearance since arriving on loan from Liverpool, after Sammy Lee’s strugglers had missed two decent chances, noted Trevor Haylett in the Telegraph, but David Healy made it tough for them. “The Northern Ireland striker pounced 12 minutes from time to send the tie into extra-time,” he wrote, describing it as a “cool finish” from a Seol Ki-Hyeon cross.

The Irishman was just warming up, wrote Richard Rae in The Guardian. “In the opening period he hit the inside of the post, and soon afterwards the bar, both times having beaten Bolton’s goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi,” he added. “But it was Stelios, with a low drive eight minutes from time, who won the game for his team.”

It was a good result for Lee, according to The Sun’s Gary Payne, who pointed out that victory was clinched despite nine first-team stars being rested, and quoted him as saying: “Stelios has scored some important cup goals over the years and that’s a nice habit to have.”

Media reaction: Fulham V Manchester City

Sorry this is a bit later than planned – work (annoyingly) got in the way. Here is a round-up of how the Sunday and Monday papers saw our draw with City. I have also added some videos of Clint Dempsey and this can be found on the left hand side.

If it’s entertainment that Roman Abramovich craves, then perhaps he should take a stroll down Fulham Broadway to Craven Cottage, where he’ll find goals, controversy, excitement and entertainment, suggested Steve Stammers in the Sunday Mirror.

“Fulham at Craven Cottage are a delight to watch,” he wrote. “Defensively they may be suspect, but the attitude is top drawer. The Chelsea oligarch may want to take note. In their last home game, Fulham shared six strikes with Tottenham, and more of the same was on view in the clash with Manchester City.”

Arindam Rej, in The Observer, saw Fulham dominate the early stages and snatch the lead after Davis picked out Hameur Bouazza on the left flank. “Bouazza;s cross was glanced in at the near post by Simon Davies, who sneaked beyond Richard Dunne in the six-yard box.”

There wasn’t much response from Eriksson’s men until nine minutes before the interval, according to The Independent’s Conrad Leach. “Michael Johnson found Martin Petrov in plenty of space and the Bulgarian was allowed to cut in far too easily by Chris Baird, although there was a slight element of luck as his shot beat Antti Niemi with a deflection.”

The shock of conceding that goal to City was heightened by the fact that it was their first serious attempt on goal, he added.

However, the home side got their nose in front again early in the second half, wrote Bruce Maxwell in The Sunday Telegraph, as substitute Kamara nutmegged Dunne to earn a free kick just outside the penalty area. “Bouazza’s swerving left foot strike left Schmeichel clutching fresh air as Fulham regained the lead.”

It didn’t last long, pointed out the Mail on Sunday’s Daniel King, as Emile Mpenza equalised after keeper Antti Niemi parried Petrov’s shot. “Baird completed a hat-trick of misdemeanours on the hour,” he added. “Petrov’s one-two with Elano was slick, but the full-back was flat-footed as Petrov ran past him before firing inside the near post.”

Despite the fact that Eriksson had turned Danny Murphy into an England international, this didn’t stop the former Liverpool man from scoring with his very first touch, pointed out Dave Kidd in The People.

“Murphy’s career has nose-dived since leaving Anfield, with bitterly disappointing spells at Charlton and Spurs,” he wrote. “But the man who forced his way into the England squad while the Swede was in charge, showed his international pedigree with the sweetest of finishes in the 75th minute.”

While satisfied with his team’s relentless attacking menace, Fulham’s manager, Lawrie Sanchez, was left to rue a familiar feeling, reflected Mike Adamson in The Guardian: the inability to hold on to leads. “This was the fifth game in which Fulham had gone in front but been unable to take the three points,” he wrote. “Fulham fans may well be concerned about their team’s brittle rearguard, but after successive 3-3 draws at Craven Cottage, they cannot grumble about getting value for money.”

Media round-up: Wigan v Fulham

Here’s how a selection of British newspapers saw our draw at the JJB Stadium.

Once again Fulham let an away win slip through their grasp and there was no doubt who the News of the World’s Jeremy Butler saw as the guilty party: Clint Dempsey.

The American striker had shown a “sharp-shooter’s eye” to fire the visitors ahead in the 11th minute, he wrote, but twice failed to finish off excellent second-half chances.

This gave the Latics a lifeline, noted Martin Palmer in The Observer, despite the home team having resembled “a boxer with both hands tied behind his back” once Emile Heskey limped off with a broken foot after just eight minutes.

Even so, for the vast majority of the match, the Londoners looked untroubled, thought Jon Culley in The Independent. “With Aaron Hughes giving an accomplished performance on a debut delayed by a pre-season injury, Fulham looked unlikely to concede even with Marcus Bent, Heskey’s replacement, launching his year-long loan from Charlton in determined style”, he wrote.

The Telegraph’s Mark Ogden agreed. The fact Fulham are without an away win in more than a year should have made them “arguably the perfect opponents to prove there can be life without Heskey”, he suggested, but yet it was Lawrie Sanchez’s team that carried the real goal threat.

Fulham certainly looked on course for the “rarest of things in football” – an away win for the side from Craven Cottage, wrote Gary Carter in the Sunday Express, but all that changed when Hameur Bouazza dragged down Mario Melchiot.

“Jason Koumas held his nerve and sent Antti Niemi the wrong way to earn a point – one they should never have got as Fulham created more than enough chances to seal an easy win”.

It could have been even worse for Fulham, pointed out Ken Lawrence in the Sunday Mirror, as Wigan very nearly snatched a dramatic winner: “The game was into injury time when (Paul) Scharner found himself unmarked from Emmerson Boyce’s cross but fired straight at Antti Niemi”.

Scott Watson, writing in The Times, branded the 1-1 draw as an “undeserved” point for Wigan, adding: “It was harsh on Fulham, who appear more resolute under Lawrie Sanchez”.

However, thre was at least one positive for the visitors, pointed out Martin Blackburn in The Sun: “At least they ended a dismal run of six straight defeats on the road, dating back to the end of Chris Coleman’s reign”.