Fulham 2 Newcastle 1
Fulham ended their long wait for a win last night as Hugo Rodallega’s header proved enough to dispatch of Newcastle in an entertaining encounter at Craven Cottage.
The Colombian’s goal was the difference in a tight affair by the Thames as the West Londoners ensured their winless streak would not stretch to an eighth match. Fulham came into the game without a win since mid-October but got off to an ideal start when Steve Sidwell’s 19th-minute strike deflected off Mike Williamson and looped in.
It was the Cottagers’ first goal in 317 minutes.
Poor Fulham finishing and the fine form of goalkeeper Tim Krul gave Newcastle hope, however. Sascha Riether twice cleared off the line for Fulham, before the returning Hatem Ben Arfa drew the visitors level in the 54th minute with a deflected effort.
However, Fulham were not to be denied and, nine minutes after the Magpies had drawn parity, Rodallega headed home a free-kick by former United midfielder Damien Duff to secure the hosts all three points.
Newcastle manager Martin Jol described the win as “vital’’.
He said: “I was so happy we could score the first goal, that was our problem the last couple of weeks.
“I think we were the better team before that (the equaliser), but they’ve got all the quality in the world so I was a bit concerned.”
Jol hailed Dimitar Berbatov, who covered a huge amount of ground and linked up the midfield and attack well in the absence of injured Bryan Ruiz.
“He is unbelievable. He worked everyone hard, he was on the left, on the right, he was all over the pitch.
“Bryan Ruiz is the creative player, but he is injured so he (Berbatov) had to do another job.”
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew felt his side only had themselves to blame.
He said: “It’s a really soft second goal — a soft free-kick, soft defending on the free-kick and you can’t do that at this level because we had the game by the scruff of the neck at this point.
“We played some of our best attacking football of the season, but we’ve still come away with nothing. Performances don’t get you points. We’ve got no-one to blame but ourselves.”
FULHAM: Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Duff, Baird, Sidwell, Kacaniklic (Dejagah 62), Rodallega (Petric 86), Berbatov.
NEWCASTLE: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Gutierrez, Tiote (Bigirimana 86), Anita (Marveaux 86), Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 70), Cisse, Ba.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).
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