Fulham fall to Newcastle 1-0

Julian Finney

In a match that played out much like the fixture between these two clubs, a late goal by Newcastle ends Fulham's opportunity to come away with a result.

For the first time season, Martin Jol ran out a lineup reasonably close to what I think is the best 11. I, like most, would have preferred Matthew Briggs to John Arne Riise. However, I feel that most of us may be influenced by the potential and youth of Briggs. Jol does see these guys every day in training, so it's entirely possible that Riise is really outperforming Briggs there. I didn't expect to see Kasami in central midfield like I wanted, but him not being in the squad seemed strange. Sky possibly reported he had a small injury, but it was weird that no one else mentioned it. Finally, Ruiz was out on the right instead of Dejagah. I prefer Dejagah on the right, but Ruiz has enough quality that he needs to be out on the pitch, so I'm not really against that decision. Plus, reports I heard said Dejagah looked pretty bad on Tuesday.

The first 30 minutes gave all the appearance that this might end in a 0-0 draw. Fulham had some really creative passes in the final third, but everything was either mishandled by Fulham or broken up by Newcastle. Newcastle's most dangerous opportunity was a shot from distance that didn't trouble Stockdale that much, though it did double the number of shots on target for them on the season.

The rest of the first half wasn't much more exciting as both teams seemed to have no idea what to do with the ball in the final third. Newcastle did force Stockdale to make one more save, and Riise made a nice tackle in the box, but I didn't feel like either team really threatened the goal that much.

The second half started much like the first. With the two sides trading bits of pressure, but neither looking extremely dangerous. Hatem Ben Arfa was the only Newcastle player that seemed dangerous.

In the 65th minute Newcastle made a double substitution, one of the players coming on being Yohan Cabaye. His first contribution was fouling Kacaniklic in a dangerous area. This allowed a Bryan Ruiz free kick, which was Fulham's best opportunity to this point. Krul was able to make a fine save on the attempt though.

Fulham were forced to make their first change when Riether looked like he twisted his ankle. Hopefully it's not too bad, and the international break gives him a chance to heal. Briggs was brought on to play right back and at the same time Newcastle brought on Loic Remy. At this point, Newcastle seemed much more dangerous then they had all match with Cisse just putting a great header off the crossbar in the 78th minute.

In the 82nd minute Jol brought on Taarabt for Bent. It looked like change to try to keep more possession and stop the dominance that Newcastle had built up for the previous 10 minutes. It appeared to work because soon after Fulham had a nice opportunity on a counter with excellent link up play between Taarabt and Riise.

But then, in the 87th minute Ben Arfa had a wonderstrike from just inside the 18 yard box. He'd looked like the best player on the pitch all day so it wasn't exactly surprising. This force Jol into his final change bringing in Rodallega for Sidwell. Rodallega wasn't able to reproduce his magic from Tuesday, and Fulham limped away without really threatening again.

Jol really has to figure this out. I think there is enough quality in the squad to be fine. But he simply has no idea how to play them. Thankfully the international break is coming up, and that will give the team a lot of time to train together. Unfortunately Ruiz will be gone for all that time. Which might make him the odd man out going forward.

I'm usually a level headed fan, but if there's no improvement in the next match at home, and nothing is done before the close of the window, I maybe ready to call for a change away from Jol.

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