|Fulham's resolute and impressive defensive display meant that Robbie Fowler's Leeds debut proved an anti-climax, as the £11m striker hardly got a touch all afternoon.|
Sylvain Legwinski Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Alan Smith Card was given for a foul
Seth Johnson Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
All eyes were naturally on Fowler following his surprise switch from Anfield at the end of last week. The omens were good too, because he scored on his Liverpool debut at Craven Cottage and also once bagged five goals here in a League Cup tie.
But Fowler's only noteworthy contribution came after 72 minutes when he unleashed a fierce drive from 25 yards which was comfortably saved by Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
Instead it was Jean Tigana's improving Fulham side who dominated, and – but for two fine saves by England goalkeeper Nigel Martyn and a goalline clearance from Gary Kelly - they would have taken all three points their efforts deserved.
Fulham's first good chance came after seven minutes when Luis Boa Morte played a neat one-two with Steed Malbranque down the right channel - but his low shot from the edge of the box lacked the power to trouble Martyn.
Fowler, who had chosen the number 27 shirt because the digits add up to his preferred number nine, was obviously keen to make an impression but was a little over-ambitious with his first shot after 12 minutes.
He picked up the ball just a few yards inside the Fulham half and tried to catch out van der Sar, who was just outside his six-yard box. But Fowler's effort never got airborne, and the big Dutchman easily gathered.
Kelly came to Leeds' rescue in the 14th minute with a vital goalline clearance to deny Boa Morte.
The striker, playing in a wide midfield role, went on a jinking run into the box and then slipped the ball past Martyn as he came off his line. But Kelly had read the situation well and was on hand to slide in and prevent a goal.
Boa Morte was proving to be a thorn in Leeds' side and he did well after half-an-hour to dispossess Ian Harte near the right corner flag. He tried to find Barry Hayles just inside the box, but Rio Ferdinand recovered to steer the ball back to Martyn.
Four minutes later Louis Saha cut in from the left and drilled in a stinging, low drive from 20 yards which Martyn saved before gathering the loose ball.
Malbranque was next to try his luck from the edge of the box after 41 minutes but he was off balance and blasted high and wide.
Fowler had half a chance to make an impression in first-half injury time but he failed to connect properly at the far post with Harry Kewell's deep cross from the right.
Fulham continued to dominate after the break, and their first good chance came from a Malbranque corner on the left after 51 minutes. Alain Goma rose highest in the box but directed his header wide.
Then six minutes later Martyn produced a flying save to keep his side in the game.
Fulham won a free-kick just outside the box in a central position after David Batty bundled over Boa Morte. John Collins whipped a curling shot around the wall, and Martyn flew to his right to push the ball behind for a corner.
Martyn saved Leeds again after 67 minutes. Malbranque took a free-kick on the right flank and delivered it deep to Goma who sent in a header which the goalkeeper clawed off his post.
Fowler came to life after 72 minutes, flashing in a fierce shot from 25 yards - but van der Sar was well placed to catch it. Then Alan Smith whipped in a low shot after 79 minutes, but again van der Sar was down smartly to save.
After 81 minutes Collins drove into the side-netting; then at the other end five minutes later Fowler tried with another weak effort to hook home a corner but failed to beat van der Sar.
The Fulham fans took the chance to chant "what a waste of money" as Fowler left the field at the end - and O'Leary will be looking for more from his new signing if Leeds are to fulfil the forward's prediction that his new team can overhaul his old one at the top of the Premiership.
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date: Sunday 2 December 2001
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Referee: Graham Poll
Line-up: Van der Sar; Finnan, Goma, Melville, Brevett; Malbranque, Legwinski (Davis 78'), Collins, Boa Morte; Hayles, Saha
Unused substitutes: Taylor, Ouaddou, Clark, Stolcers
Line-up: Martyn; Kelly, Ferdinand, Mills, Harte; Smith, Johnson, Batty, Kewell (Dacourt 70'); Fowler, Viduka
Unused substitutes: Robinson, Duberry, Wilcox, Keane
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