On a pleasant spring-like Friday night in West London AFC Bournemouth visited The Cottage to face Fulham FC in a battle that would see Bournemouth move top of the Npower Championship for the 5th time this 2014/15 season with a victory. Fulham sat in 20th place, buoyed by two decent performances, faced an out of sorts Bournemouth team who had slipped to 4th after winning only once in their previous six.
Fulham set up in an attacking looking 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Premier League experienced Bryan Ruiz and Scott Parker at the top and bottom of the diamond respectively. Kermorgant was relegated to the Bournemouth bench after picking up a dead leg in training midweek. They lined up in a good old fashioned 4-4-2 formation, although some would argue it was more of a 4-4-1-1 set up, does this mean much? Who knows?
The first five minutes were Fulham’s, some good wing play saw McCormack, the 11 million pound man, have his chances of a goal thwarted by Elphick, whilst Rodallega headed over from a good chance some thirty seconds later. The next twenty minutes had fans watching an end to end game with many half chances, with the 14th minute seeing a scramble in which Tunnicliffe cleared off the line and Parker got in an amazing block – a man renowned for throwing himself in front of danger. The ref was also letting heavy challenges go if the player won the ball first, something that everyone loves to see.
In the 29th minute the deadlock was broken as Daniels, the ex-Leyton Orient man, overlapped down the left to send a pinpoint low cross to an unmarked Pitman. Bettinelli possibly should have done better as he appeared to dive before the ball was struck by Pitman, a gamble which did not pay off. Immediately after the restart the Bournemouth fans could be heard singing “We are top of the League”.
A period of Bournemouth domination after the goal saw them double their lead on 37 minutes, as Matt Richie’s shot hit the defender and went in. Francis’ overlap from right back was extremely clever as he took the Fulham defender out the way of Richie, allowing him time and space for his shot. Before half time there were multiple instances of Fulham fans becoming disgruntled with their team as Fulham struggled to string two passes together, and Parker rolling out and making a square pass when the fans hoped for something more flair and cutting edge – something Parker is not renowned for.
As the half time whistle went it was clear to see what the issue was with Fulham’s shape. The diamond in the middle was far too narrow allowing the overlaps of the Bournemouth full-backs to prove pivotal in the two goals. Half time saw Matt Smith come on for Rodallega, meaning some delightful long ball football from Fulham in the second forty-five minutes, something everyone loves to see.
Fulham came out the blocks in the second half, but Bournemouth always looked dangerous on the break, with Bettinelli making a great save diving at the feet of the Bournemouth forward in the 52nd minute. An awful linesman decision in the 56th minute saw Wilson ‘foul’ the Fulham defender when he had got to the ball first and looked certain to get a shot on goal. However, what was even worse was being able to see him swear twice at the linesman with no action being taken. Making bad decisions is one thing, but the lack of respect makes their jobs much harder.
This incident didn’t impact the game too much as Bournemouth made their lead unassailable in the 60th minute as Pitman ran from the halfway line, evading poor challenges from Parker and Hutchinson to amble into the box and bend it around the keeper. My notes say “great finish … Fulham bad”. 0-3.
Two minutes later McCormack was once again denied an almost certain goal as Francis threw himself in front of the ball to block the effort. In the 65th minute Fulham hit back to shorten the deficit to two, with a nice finish from Smith inside the box to the keepers right, sending it into the far corner. Once again a few question marks over the goalkeeping, this time regarding Boruc, as he went to ground far too early.
Fulham’s hopes of turning the game on its head were scrapped by Amorebieta who saw red in the 68th minute to cap off a quite frankly dreadful performance by him. He was the last man and got the wrong side of the hard working Wilson. He laughed at the ref as he walked off the pitch, seemingly unaware it was a blatant foul and that he had doomed his team to defeat. I’m sure he stopped laughing once Richie slotted in his second of the game from the free kick after a cute lay off which caused the Fulham wall to break apart and unsight their keeper. More shambolic defending from Fulham. 1-4.
The goal saw two substitutions from Fulham in an attempt to save face, with Fofana’s energy after coming on showing Fulham what they could have had for the previous 70 minutes. Shortly after Smith found himself in a similar position to the one her scored from in the Bournemouth penalty area, but an extra touch made the angle too tight leading to a decent save from Boruc, the veteran ex-Southampton goalkeeper.
The 84th minute then played witness to one of the best goals a centre-half will score all season in the Championship. A broken down Bournemouth corner made its way to Cook on the right hand side of the box, who cut right across the ball with the outside of the right boot to pick out to the top left hand corner. A moment of magic against a Fulham team that appeared to had lost the will to live.
The sixth goal for Bournemouth nearly came in the last ten minutes (including stoppage time) but to no avail due to some decent Bettinelli goalkeeping. Bournemouth return to top of the league, most likely only temporarily, but questions about their promotion aspirations and ability were swiftly answered in this resounding victory. Fulham, on the other hand, need to improve fast to avoid being sucked into an end of season relegation scrap, which some would argue they are already in. Full time, Fulham 1 Bournemouth 5.
Player Focus: Scott Parker
Now to return to the title of this piece. A player I focused on specifically throughout the game was Scott Parker, ex Charlton, Chelsea, West Ham and Tottenham, as well as England international. There are some things that Parker will always do, such as press hard, throw himself in front of the ball and play with passion. These are guaranteed for whoever he plays for, and things he has done throughout his career. The current system at Fulham means his game is limited to only these things. He very rarely got involved in any of the build-up play in this match, only playing six successful passes in the second half. Also whenever he got the ball his only option was to turn back and play square or backward passes as creative players such as Ruiz were too far up the pitch. Many teams in this day and age play a system with two holding midfielders, one which makes the tackles and the other who controls the tempo of the game. For example look at Chelsea, Fulham’s neighbours, their success is based on Matic winning the ball and Fabregas making the goals for Coasta, Hazard, Oscar etc. So to answer the question: Does Scott Parker still have ‘it’? In my opinion yes. His passion and desire to win the ball and to win football matches is second to not many professional footballers. However, if the question is ‘do Fulham still have it?’ The answer is a resounding no.
Bettinelli – 4
Hoogland – 3
Hutchinson – 4
Bodurov – 4
Amorebieta – 1
Parker – 6
Tunnicliffe – 6
Kavanagh (72) – 5
Ruiz (72) – 4
McCormack – 6
Rodallega (45) – 5
Smith (45) – 7
Stafylidis (72) – 5
Fofana (72) – 6
Boruc – 7
Francis – 8
Elphick – 7
Cook – 8
Daniels – 9
Ritchie (86) – 10
Surman – 7
Arter – 7
Pugh (79) – 7
Pitman – 10
Wilson (76) – 8
Rantie (76) – 6
Smith (79) – 6
Stanislas (86) – N/A
Man of the match – Richie
Flair of the day – Cook
Richard of the day – Asombalonga
Bad barnet of the day – Richie
By Matthew Moss
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