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Fulham 1 - 2 Newcastle United

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Cynicism won the day at St. James' Park as Fulham were defeated by Newcastle United 2-1.

A pair of goals by Leon Best proved fatal to the travelling Cottagers, who've now gone three league games without a win and will find themselves near the relegation zone by the end of the day with a lone point to their name.

Fulham, unveiling a new, gold third kit, took the upper hand early in the match, bossing possession and moving the ball up the pitch with fluidity atypical to their early season form. Chances were hard to find, however, Fulham's fluidity was often interrupted by harsh, niggling tackles, with Cheik Tiote the primary culprit. 

When Fulham player was caught in possession, he was being taken to ground, whether the Newcastle tackler got hold of the ball or not. Yet, somehow, Tiote avoided a card the entire match. He ended the day with six fouls to his name, most of which were unnecessary and easily avoidable.

In match official Kevin Friend's eyes, apparently, none deserved yellow and Tiote and his compatriots were able to operate with impunity throughout the match, inexplicably avoiding yellow until the 87th minute.

It was this physical bossing of midfield that allowed Newcastle to somewhat bully Fulham out of the match and take control as the first half wore on. By the end of the first period, Newcastle had begun to dominate possession and Fulham were forced to operate on their back heels heading into the half.

Things did not improve at the start of the second frame.

With Newcastle retaining control of proceedings upon the restart, Yohan Cabaye collected the ball off of a throw in deep in his own half before opening up to fire a dipping shot towards Mark Schwarzer's goal. Schwarzer could only manage a glancing parry of the ball, upward and off of the crossbar, before a lurking Best pounced on the opportunity and opened Newcastle's account in the 48th minute at 1-0.

The hosts' lead was doubled just over 15 minutes later when the newly introduced Demba Ba managed to play a quick, sneaky centering ball into the box from Newcastle's right flank. Aaron Hughes, reading the pass, stepped forward to intercept but missed his opportunity, allowing Best to gain control, turn and quickly finish from close once more, making the score 2-0 in the 68th.

Fulham had begun to take the match to Newcastle once again just prior to Best's second and dangerous headers from Steve Sidwell and Danny Murphy forced Tim Krul to make impressive reflex saves. 

Newcastle was finally made to pay for the multitude free kicks they surrendered in the 88th when Murphy's freekick met Dempsey's unmarked forehead and the American's header looped just over Krul's finger tips and into the net. 

Fulham could not mount another attack of consequence in added time, however, and the match ended at 2-1.

Match Notes:

* John Arne Riise and Bobby Zamora were both held out with injuries, Riise with a groin and Zamora with an ankle. Matthew Briggs made the start at left back in Riise's absence and showed well.

* Fulham's Man of the Match for my money was Damien Duff. A victim of persistent boo birds throughout the contest, the ex-Newcastle man was menacing in both attack and defense and found himself the focal point of most of Fulham's attacks throughout the afternoon.

* The match marked the reunion of the Brede Hangeland - Aaron Hughes pairing in central defense, with Philippe Senderos being left on the bench in favor of Chris Baird at right back.

* Dempsey's goal in the 88th minute snapped a streak of 371 consecutive minutes this season, including Europa League play, in which Fulham failed to score a goal away from home.