Blackburn went down to their third consecutive home defeat, expertly mugged by Fulham’s speedy strikers.This was a match won by Chris Coleman's tactical acumen. In Luis Boa Morte and Louis Saha, Fulham have two of the quickest forwards in the business - and the Londoners used them perfectly. Defending in depth and packing the midfield, Fulham deprived Blackburn the space to play and then sprang the trap when Rovers were sucked in towards the ball. There was a goal each for Luis and Louis, the first a fifth-minute tap-in and the second a classic breakaway 10 minutes after the break. Blackburn had been naive in defence and bereft of ideas going forward.
Only when two behind, and desperate, did they start to play - but by then it was too late. Rovers boss Graeme Souness must have hoped that restoring Barry Ferguson and Garry Flitcroft to midfield would have changed things for the better after the disappointing defeat in Turkey in midweek.
But almost from the kick-off Fulham controlled matters, and disaster struck for Blackburn in the fifth minute. Steed Malbranque went on a searing run down the right and crossed; Brad Friedel and Martin Taylor both went for the ball and then left it for the other, and Boa Morte suddenly found himself presented with an empty net four yards out. He will rarely have scored a simpler goal. Blackburn probed for an equaliser but struggled to find a way through, with Zat Knight an imperious presence in the Fulham defence. Brett Emerton fired wide after a promising run, but Fulham continued to look dangerous on the break. Junichi Inamoto threatened from Boa Morte's angled pass, but Vratislav Gresko blocked well. Blackburn's cause was not helped when Markus Babbel hobbled off to be replaced by Nils-Eric Johansson.
The match continued to be poor fare with both sides unable to manufacture openings, and when Boa Morte did outstrip Taylor for pace and was nudged over in the box by Emerton Blackburn were lucky not to concede a penalty. David Thompson finally provided something for the Blackburn crowd to shout about when he cut in from the left past Moritz Volz but blasted his drive wide.
In first-half injury-time Emerton was fouled on the right-hand edge of the area, Knight picking up a caution as a result, but Edwin van der Sar was equal to Gresko's free-kick. Lorenzo Amoruso's superbly-struck long pass early in the second half led to Gresko driving at goal, but Inamoto's block took the sting out of the shot. Matt Jansen finally made an impact, stretching to turn Ferguson's ball across goal but just behind Cole; then at the other end Saha was a foot away from latching on to Boa Morte's cross. Little was going Blackburn's way, though, and when Cole burst toward goal the ball flicked away off his heel. Fulham's pace up front proved decisive when Inamoto's long ball from his own half caught Rovers sleeping, Saha shrugged off Amoruso's attempt to pull him back and then cut back inside the Italian defender before finishing expertly from the edge of the area.
Souness immediately threw caution to the wind, bringing on Corrado Grabbi instead of Gresko to make it three up front and replacing Ferguson with Tugay. Rovers looked more threatening, and van der Sar did well to tip Emerton's 25-yard drive past the post. Then Grabbi and Thompson sliced open the visitors, but Jansen could not get there to finish. Emerton forced a reaction save out of van der Sar after Grabbi had provided more quality down the left, and then Johansson was lucky not to concede a penalty when tangling with Lee Clark. As the clock ticked down Cole looped a header into van der Sar's hands; then the striker came agonisingly close, lobbing the Fulham goalkeeper only to see the ball bounce against the crossbar.