|An own-goal of agonising misfortune by Rufus Brevett and an awesome performance by keeper Brad Friedel handed victory to Blackburn in a game Fulham dominated and should have won.|
David Dunn Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Steve Finnan Card was given for a foul
Sean Davis Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
The visitors had been crushingly dominant in the second half, Steve Marlet wiping out Blackburn's 1-0 advantage from Dwight Yorke's goal, but went on to miss a string of chances including a penalty as Rovers were once again left in Friedel's debt.
Fulham were finally denied even the point which was the least they deservedwhen keeper Edwin van der Sar cleared Yorke's volley straight at Brevett and the ball bounced off the defender's body and over the goal-line. Friedel proved the crucial difference on the day - the American was back ingoal less than two weeks after undergoing an operation on knee cartilage, and hewas cheered off the pitch by relieved Rovers fans.
Blackburn had begun with purpose and the match was less than a minute old whena move involving several players ended with David Dunn hitting a well-struckeffort from 20 yards that forced a sprawling save from Edwin van der Sar.
Steed Malbranque won a free-kick in a dangerous position, 27 yards out anddead centre. The French midfielder took it himself and although he found thetarget he did not have the power to beat Friedel.
After a poor patch, Blackburn contrived a decent opportunity in the 26thminute.
How Andy Cole missed it beggared belief.
Damien Duff and Nils-Eric Johansson had opened up Fulham down the left, David Thompson fired across goal from the right and Cole stuck out a boot to divert it in only to, somehow,missed the unguarded target from five yards out.
At least the incident invigorated Blackburn and only a save of the very highest quality by van der Sar kept the match goalless.
Yorke rolled the ball back for Dunn to hit a fierce drive from 25 yards out,it took a deflection off a defender to wrong-foot van der Sar but somehow the Dutch keeper flung himself the other way to get a hand to the ball, whichtrickled an inch past the post.
Blackburn were not to be denied and took the lead after a superb display of one-touch passing.
It culminated in Dunn slipping Duff through the defensive ranks, the Irish winger crossing first-time for Yorke to finish without fuss for his first goal at Ewood Park since joining Blackburn in the summer.
A minute before the break Fulham should have equalised when SylvainLegwinski's run onto Davis' killer pass put him one-on-one with Friedel but hislob cleared both the keeper and the cross-bar.
Soon after half-time, Friedel underlined his importance to Blackburn to deny Luis Boa Morte.
Sean Davis engineered the break out of defence with a pass to Malbranque who then set Boa Morte sprinting down the middle.
It was glorious chance but, with Duff snapping at his heels, the Fulham striker was faced with Friedel blocking his path and his shot bounced off the American.
With half an hour left Marlet equalised for Fulham.
Boa Morte's role in thebuild-up proved crucial with a little back-heeled flick to send hisstrike-partner racing clear.
Perhaps mindful of Friedel's last save, theFrenchman ignored the direct route to goal, cut across Johansson and then shotthrough Craig Short's legs into the opposite corner.
Almost immediately, Duff came close to putting Rovers back in front as he burst through on goal but his drilled shot only found the sidenetting.
The pace of Fulham's front players troubled Rovers and Boa Morte's speed was too much for Short who sent him sprawling in the box.
There was no dispute over the penalty but with Friedel between the sticks spot-kicks are no guarantee of goals.
So it proved again as the American spread himself to parry Marlet's firmly-struck kick to the keeper's left.
Andy Todd, who had a game to forget, slipped in possession and set Boa Morte on another sprint towards goal but this time Lucas Neill somehow managed totackle him from behind legally and once again Blackburn survived.
After surviving so many close calls it was mightily unfair on Fulham when Blackburn re-took the lead through Brevett's own goal with 12 minute left.
Fulham continued to press and Friedel came to the rescue no less than threetimes in quick succession, saving headers from Boa Morte, Marlet and then a shotfrom Malbranque.
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date: Saturday 30 November 2002
Venue: Ewood Park, Blackburn
Referee: Phil Dowd
Line-up: Friedel; Neill, Short, Johansson, Todd; Thompson, Tugay, Dunn (Douglas 89'), Duff; Yorke, Cole
Unused substitutes: Kelly, Grabbi, Ostenstad, Jansen
Line-up: Van der Sar; Finnan, Goma, Melville, Brevett; Malbranque, Legwinski, Clark (Inamoto 59'), Davis, Boa Morte; Marlet
Unused substitutes: Taylor, Djetou, Goldbaek, Sava
|17||West Bromwich Albion||16||15|
|20||West Ham United||15||12|