By Morgan Phillips
It is hard for a Fulham fan to extract positives from Saturday’s lunchtime match against Manchester United.
For the first quarter of the match the home side looked as good as the visitors, indeed Luciano Vietto squandered an early chance scoring after classy work from Ryan Babel and Andre Schurlle.
Shortly afterwards Chris Smalling wrestled with Aleks Mitrovic to prevent him from heading Fulham into the lead. Referee Paul Tierney appeared not to notice.
United were not so profligate. Sloppy play from Max le Marchand and John Michael-Seri allowed Paul Pogba to cut in from the left and thump the ball past a badly positioned Sergio Rico. It was an uncharacteristic error by the Brazilian keeper, and subsequently he had a fine match.
With Marcus Bettinelli incapacitated, we need Rico to stay fit and retain his best form.
Fulham responded well to the set-back and showed that they were not overawed by the visitors.
Unfortunately a close passing movement broke down, allowing Anthony Martial a clear run at goal. Denis Odoi shadowed him but le Marchand barely attempted to intervene. The goal was a formality, albeit a spectacular one.
Manager Claudio Ranieri again blamed his players for naivety: “They wanted to score immediately to draw the match. But against big teams it is difficult and we conceded in the counter attack.”
Which was more to blame for United’s goal: the counter attack or its ponderous build-up? Some fans criticised Odoi and le Marchand for not fouling Martial. I despise the ‘taking one for the team’ philosophy, but an old-fashioned tackle would not have gone amiss.
With over 20 minutes of the first half remaining a number of spectators headed for the bars and the refreshment stands. They were not expecting a Fulham comeback.
This fatalism also affected the players.
An apparent handball on the edge of the area prompted hardly any Fulham protest. Match of the Day did not even show the incident, let alone analyse it.
United fans would counter by pointing out that MOTD also failed to consider whether Calum Chambers stamped on Chris Smalling.
In the 53rd minute Ranieri replaced Schurrle with a defender – Cyrus Christie.
‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ sang the crowd, though it might have been more apposite to ask, ‘Do you know what the score is?’
Twelve minutes later Juan Mata lost control of the ball but profited from a collision with le Marchand, earning a penalty from the inconsistent Mr Tierney. Pogba duly performed his party trick.
The Match of the Day commentator judged that Fulham were doomed. Furthermore ‘a lot of their summer signings will be totally ill-equipped for the Championship’.
No, the problem is that they seem ill-equipped for the Premier League. Just after these words were uttered, Ryan Babel missed the chance to score from close range.
‘We’ve got our United back’ sang the Manchester fans. ‘We want our Fulham back’ came the response’.
But, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer readily admitted: “When you win games you’re happy.”
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
Want to read more news stories like this? Subscribe to our weekly e-news bulletin.
By sending us a comment, you are agreeing to our publishing policy.