Aleksandar Mitrovic and Neil Etheridge

Babel’s Marval

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Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham (right) and Neil Etheridge of Cardiff City. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Morgan Phillips
Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

Fulham’s home match against Cardiff was a strange one though that epithet makes it sound more interesting than it really was.

The home side made a promising start with Ryan Babel shrewdly finding Aleks Mitrovic on the edge of the penalty area. Cardiff’s keeper Neil Etheridge fisted away Mitrovic’s fierce drive.

Shortly afterwards the Serb was back in defence, grappling with Sean Morrison. From row N it looked a clear penalty but the referee ignored the incident.

In a subsequent Cardiff attack, two Fulham players went for the same ball, and Max le Marchand’s boot smashed into Denis Odoi’s face rendering him briefly unconscious.

When the match resumed this awful accident seemed to have unsettled both teams. Cardiff manifested little sign of their desperate need for points, while Fulham were content to pass the ball around in their own half. Mitrovic, given a simple chance, shot wildly.

After the interval, the home side became more competitive but the game in terms of quality was not even good enough for the final spot on Match of the Day.

Then in the 79th minute came a goal of staggering quality. Cyrus Christie, who had replaced Odoi, took the ball from the halfway line to the penalty area then pulled it back for Babel, who without hesitation found the corner of the net.

The Dutch international will surely move on at the end of this season, but he would be fantastic in the Championship.

Belatedly, Cardiff besieged Fulham’s goal - only to find Sergio Rico in unbeatable form. He saved twice from Danny Ward, and repelled Sean Morrison, Bobby Reid and others.

Without the Spanish keeper, Fulham would probably have lost. The home team had only two shots on target, both of which I have described in this short report, but a third successive victory was achieved. Rico is another player unlikely to return next year.

The initial news about Denis Odoi was reassuring. He was a vital member of the promotion-winning side and despite the upheavals has performed well this season. Everyone will wish him a full and speedy recovery.

I must apologise to Neil Warnock the Cardiff manager.

Last week I predicted that he would find some cause for complaint, but he spoke calmly after the match, praising Babel and (despite the Mitrovic foul) referee Chris Kavanagh.

The Welsh team are now almost certain to be relegated.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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