Report - Fulham 1-2 Swansea City
29th December 2012
Danny Graham returned to Swansea City's starting line-up to replace top goalscorer Michu and helped Laudrup's side to a hard-fought 2-1 win at Fulham.
Fulham must hate playing the Swans now, as they are still yet to claim a single point in all 3 League meetings, and today`s goal is the only one they have scored against us since our arrival in the English top flight.
Today was a big test for the Swans to see if they could cope without their star man Michu and prove that they`re not a one-man team. Not only did they prove that, but also that they can make up to 7 changes to the starting eleven and still grind out a tough win away at an established Premier League side like Fulham.
Another big talking point recently has been the exclusion of Danny Graham, who before today has only started once in 2 months. Not only that, but Luke Moore and Itay Shechter have often been picked ahead of him either to start or to come off the bench in games. Today, was his big chance to prove that he is worth keeping beyond the January transfer window, and he took it well.
Despite the injury blow to Michu, Laudrup welcomed back Spanish duo Angel Rangel and Pablo Hernandez. The latter struggled on his return from injury, while Rangel slotted in as if he hadn`t been away. Despite Rangel`s return, Tiendalli kept his place as Ben Davies was rested on the bench, while Monk also started as Chico, injured, watched on in the stands amongst the travelling jack army!
In midfield, Leon Britton and Ki were also dropped to the bench as Agustien and de Guzman returned. Up front, Luke Moore was always unlikely to keep his place after an anonymous display at Reading on Boxing Day, and Graham was finally given a start.
Swansea have been known to help teams end their poor runs but today was a rare occasion we avoided doing so, as Fulham`s 1 win in 11 before the game now extends to 12. It was rather unfortunate for the Cottagers to not see the end of that poor run, as their stand-in goalkeeper and former target David Stockdale had a game to forget. His parried shot from Dyer fell nicely for Graham to net the opener, before his poor clearance was a gift for de Guzman to double the visitor`s advantage.
Fulham have looked distinctively poor in recent games which reflects their poor form, particularly at Liverpool in their 4-0 drubbing, but today they looked a far better outfit as they created chances early on, but there was still clear evidence of a lack of confidence in the final third.
Laudrup picked out Berbatov as Fulham`s main threat, and the former Manchester United striker went close to netting an early opener for the hosts, unsurprisingly from a set piece - Swansea`s significant weakness, both defensively and offensively. Berbatov had an awkward ball to volley from 6 yards and it bounced just over Tremmel`s crossbar.
Despite having Berbatov in their team, it was Bryan Luiz who was Fulham`s best hopes of a first half goal. He saw a curling effort palmed away by Tremmel, and also a free-kick go just off target after Dwight Tiendalli`s foul.
The Swans soon stopped their early momentum with a 19th minute goal. They looked to catch their opponents on the counter and despite a lack of opportunities, they took the one they needed to take the lead. Nathan Dyer struck a low shot towards the far post from the right side of the penalty area, Stockdale could only parry the ball and Graham did well to volley it into the net from 6 yards.
Michel Vorm only returned for two games before being rested after a spell out with a groin injury, but we knew Tremmel could be relied upon to do another good job, and we needed one from the German. He was called up throughout as Fulham created 20 chances in the 90 minutes. The defence in front of him should also be highly praised for their efforts to only concede one goal as Jol`s side piled on the pressure, particularly after the break.
Fulham fans showed their frustration at the half time whistle with some boos heard at Craven Cottage, but they created chances and forced the Swans to work hard and earn their lead, and eventually their win.
Fulham made a strong start to the second half, up until Stockdale`s gift for de Guzman when they shot themselves in the foot. The Dutchman curled a shot past the goalkeeper after his low clearance bounce off a defender. However, when it looked like the Swans had a bit of breathing space in the game, the deficit was back to just 1 goal four minutes later.
You`d have to say, the goal had been coming from the home side. Tremmel had saves to make, Luiz almost found the net from a free kick while the Swans goalkeeper could only stand and watch before he had to pick the ball out of his net.
There were strong claims for offside, but Sian Massey looked to have got the tightest of decisions correct as Riether looked to be level with Ashley Williams when Ruiz`s shot deflected off him and into the net. Berbatov`s shot had come back off the crossbar in the process.
With over half an hour to play, it was a long, long time for the Swans to hold on, and while Laudrup often brings on attackers, he went with the less likely defensive approach to cope with the constant pressure. After Ki`s arrival for Wayne Routledge at the start of the half, believed to be purely tactical, Ben Davies came on for Pablo Hernandez, who struggled in his first start since the fantastic 3-1 home win against West Brom.
Berbatov then had the ball in the net to make it 2-2, but Massey spotted offside this time as the Bulgarian was clearly two yards beyond the last man to net the ball easily when a shot was only parried by Tremmel.
Danny Graham broke free with 15 minutes remaining with a great chance to restore the 2-goal advantage. Ki put him through brilliantly but his left footed shot was palmed away by Stockdale.
In terms of action at the other end, Tremmel`s work was reduced despite the constant pressure, as the Swansea defence were doing well to limit the amount of clear opportunities that they could create. The likes of Ben Davies and Leon Britton were vital arrivals to help deal with the pressure, as we sat back on our 2-1 lead.
It was far from an excellent performance from the Swans. Laudrup admitted his side`s passing wasn`t as good as he`d like but it was the win and three points and counts. Sometimes you have to dig deep and win without playing particularly well or creating many chances, and that was exactly the case today.