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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fulham Vs. Manchester United Match Report

United's rare abberation against Liverpool became a blip as Fulham fought their way to a shock victory at Craven Cottage.

The damage caused by Danny Murphy's first-half penalty and Zoltan Gera's late goal on the break was compounded by red cards for Paul Scholes, for deliberate handball, and substitute Wayne Rooney for two bookable offences. These dismissals, added to Nemanja Vidic's existing suspension, will leave the Reds three men light for the vital next league game against Aston Villa on Sunday 5 April.

Sir Alex Ferguson made five changes to the side that suffered a demoralising home defeat to Liverpool seven days previously. Nemanja Vidic's red card in that game forced one alteration, with Jonny Evans replacing the suspended Serb; the other four adjustments recalled Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to the midfield and brought Dimitar Berbatov into attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

Fulham fielded the same team that impressively beat Bolton away last weekend but was crushed 4-0 at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup only a fortnight ago. Clint Dempsey had been the Cottagers’ main doubt with a bout of food poisoning but he was involved from the start and how, suffering the first foul from Scholes inside 20 seconds and then striking the first shot wide of the target moments later.

United returned fire with Berbatov heading over from an Evra cross but otherwise Fulham enjoyed most of the opening moments in the spring sunshine. Bobby Zamora and Simon Davies also flexed their shooting muscles, albeit inaccurately. shooting muscles, albeit inaccurately.

Craven Cottage has been a happy hunting ground for Ji-sung Park but a poor pass from the Korean led to Fulham’s first goal and a red card for Scholes.

Davies forced a corner after Park cheaply conceded possession; when Fulham giant Brede Hangeland nodded towards goal from the resulting set-piece, van der Sar made a superb legal save, only for Scholes to follow it by palming away Zamora’s point-blank header. Referee Phil Dowd had no option other than to give the United man his marching orders and point to the spot, from where Danny Murphy buried the ball.

The rattled Reds were indebted to another van der Sar parry when Zamora broke into the box and almost doubled the damage, although better control from Johnson or composure by Dempsey as the ball broke could still have sealed the deal for Fulham. Other Edwin saves denied Zamora twice again and Davies, all from long distance.

The extra man enabled Fulham to gain dangerous amounts of time and space in front of United’s back four; the champions’ resistance was also undermined by Evans walking a tight-rope on the game’s first yellow card, for a foul on Andy Johnson.

Fulham defender John Panstil was involved in three incidents as the half ended in heated scenes; booked for clattering Park, he was overlooked after clipping Ronaldo, and reprieved when Dowd decided Evra had simulated a foul against the Ghanian.

For the second time in seven days, the champions headed for the dressing room in arrears and in need of a rousing speech from Sir Alex. The boss kept it brief and presumably to the point; United were back on the field well before Fulham, with Wayne Rooney replacing Berbatov in the Reds’ ten for the restart.

The substitute almost immediately teed up Park for a shot; sadly it flew over the bar with the Korean seeking his third goal in three visits to Fulham’s manor. Ronaldo’s header from Fletcher’s fine cross met with the same fate, despite its promising power.

Less impressive was Ronaldo’s lunge of frustration at Fulham skipper and scorer Murphy; Dowd felt the same and brandished another yellow card.

Ronaldo responded well to this setback, tormenting Pantsil and delivering a cross that Hangeland had to head away; then directing a firm header of his own towards goal from Rooney’s teasing pull-back on the right-hand by-line.

Schwarzer claimed this effort plus a drive from Fletcher in another good passage of play for the improving Reds. But the Australian’s best was still to come, an incredible point-blank stop to thwart Park, doubled up with a save from Rooney on the rebound.

The same goal that was so brilliantly protected by van der Sar in the first half, Murphy’s penalty apart, was now being shielded to a similar level by Schwarzer.
Rooney’s introduction had significantly upped the ante, and Sir Alex cranked his attack to another level by sending Carlos Tevez on for O’Shea.

It left United light at the back but it barely seemed to matter with Fulham largely locked inside their own half. Some Cottagers began to crack under the pressure - Dempsey entered the book for a foul on Rooney.

Fulham tried to stem the flow by bringing on three pairs of fresh legs; one of the subs, Diomansy Kamara, was pulled down by Rooney for another yellow card.

With the minutes ticking by, United looked increasingly to late-goal specialist Tevez for an equaliser; unfortunately the Argentine’s decent header from Park’s cross landed the wrong side of the post.

Instead the second goal of an absorbing game came from a home side substitute, former West Brom midfielder Zoltan Gera. Fulham broke three on two in the 87th minute and when Johnson clipped the ball across the box, the Hungarian teed himself up for an acrobatic volley past van der Sar.

Game over – but not the drama. After Ronaldo had badgered Dowd to the point of a final warning, it was Rooney who finally snapped the referee’s patience – hurling the ball angrily in dissent, he found himself shown a second yellow, then the second red card of the match. United’s day had gone from bad, to encouraging, to abysmal. And as the nine men trudged off at the final whistle, the big lead over Liverpool at the top of the table was beginning

Fulham Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Fulham [2 - 0] Manchester United
18' [1 - 0] D. Murphy (pen.)
87' [2 - 0] Z. Gera

Rooney Red Card