John Arne Riise made his debut for Fulham on Thursday evening, lining-up at left-back for the visit of Crusaders. Riise’s inclusion in the starting eleven meant that Matthew Briggs was moved forward into a left-wing role – a position which he filled admirably.
It was Briggs who played a part in Fulham’s first attempt on target, creating an opportunity for Andrew Johnson on seven minutes, whose shot was well held by Sean O’Neill in the Crusaders goal.
The visitors certainly showed their attacking intention by regularly committing players forward; however they were often let down by the quality of the final pass to their front line – allowing Fulham to easily win back possession.
Fulham opened the scoring on 19 minutes following a fine flowing move, culminating in Andrew Johnsonside-stepping a defender to power a finish past O’Neill. John Arne Riise set the move in motion, making a positive run down the left flank which was found by a searching Brede Hangeland pass. Bobby Zamora allowed Riise’s square pass to run through to Johnson, who made no mistake from ten yards.
The goal handed the Whites the initiative as Martin Jol’s team proceeded to increase their share of the possession stakes. The Whites came close to building on their 4-1 aggregate advantage when a Damien Duff cross was met by the head of Bobby Zamora, unfortunately Sean O’Neill was well positioned to make a simple catch. Steve Sidwell also narrowly missed out on getting his name on the score sheet when he side-footed wide after playing a nice one-two with Zamora on the edge of the area.
Fulham started the second-half brightly with good opportunities falling to Philippe Senderos and Steve Sidwell but the Crusaders goal continued to lead a charmed life.
Fulham doubled their advantage on the night on 55 minutes with an accurate piece of finishing from Damien Duff. The Republic of Ireland international was put clean through on goal by a precise pass from Senderos. Despite looking as through he had run the ball too wide Duff was able to place a right-footed finish beyond O’Neill and just inside the far post.
As the match wore on Fulham’s superior levels of fitness started to tell and it wasn’t long before the Whites had netted their third of the game, with Bobby Zamora applying the first-time finish to a centre from Andrew Johnson.
Steve Sidwell capped off his evening’s work by prodding home Fulham’s fourth of the evening from six yards on 70 minutes – he was replaced shortly after the restart by Dickson Etuhu.
Fulham maintained their grip on the game quite comfortably into the closing stages of the game with further opportunities coming for Zamora and substitutes Kerim Frei and Bjorn Helge Riise – none of which tested O’Neill.