Monday 24 April 2006, 8:00pm at Craven Cottage, London
Barclays Premier League
Fulham FC
Fulham
1
Malbranque 45'
Wigan Athletic
Wigan Athletic
0
A solitary Steed Malbranque goal was enough to guarantee Fulham’s top flight status for another season as the Whites won a nervy battle against Wigan. The fact that the goal came somewhat against the run of play would have no doubt made the win sweeter, as memories of Wigan’s late winner at the JJB Stadium earlier in the season still lingered.

45' Goal

Steed Malbranque

63' Yellow Card

Papa Bouba Diop Card was given for a foul

76' Yellow Card

Luis Boa Morte Card was given for a foul

84' Yellow Card

Tomasz Radzinski Card was given for a foul

85' Yellow Card

Brian McBride Card was given for a foul

72' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Tomasz Radzinski
Off:Heidar Helguson

85' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:Philippe Christanval
Off:Simon Elliott

57' Yellow Card

Lee McCulloch Card was given for a foul

90' Yellow Card

Pascal Chimbonda Card was given for a foul

87' Substitution

Player was substituted for tactical reasons
On:David Connolly
Off:Gary Teale

0
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30
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60
75
90

Although Wigan started the brighter side, it was Fulham, through Malbranque, who had the first shot on goal.  The ball fell to the Frenchman 30 yards out and he teed up a right footed effort which was deflected into the clutches of Michael Pollitt in the Wigan goal.

Wigan were able to take advantage of an individual error by Wayne Bridge allowed Gary Teale to skip into a dangerous area.  The Wigan midfielder’s shot was blocked by Ian Pearce but the rebound fell kindly and only a fine reflex save from Antti Niemi prevented the visitors from taking the lead.

The tussle between Fulham’s strike force, McBride and Helguson, and Wigan’s central defensive pairing of Matt Jackson and Stephane Henchoz was certainly not turning out to be an encounter for the faint of heart. 

Heidar Helguson was next to test Pollitt when he out leapt his marker to meet diagonal cross from Bridge, forcing a routine save.

Gary Teale managed to evade the attentions of Simon Elliott just in front of the Fulham area on 20 minutes and his shot took a deflection that saw both Niemi and Rosenior leave the ball for each other, resulting in a Wigan corner.

The chances continued to come for Wigan as their mobility in midfield started to make the difference.  The visitors were enjoying particular success in exploiting Lee McCulloch’s aerial superiority over Liam Rosenior, as was demonstrated by the increased number of diagonal balls being played to over the head of the Fulham right back.

As half time approached the Fulham fans began to express their dissatisfaction at the Whites’ inability to get their passing game going and establish a foothold in midfield.

But just as the first half looked like ending in a frustrating stalemate, Fulham scored against the run of play.  Luis Boa Morte’s short diagonal run in front of the Wigan penalty area allowed Malbranque to drift into space.  The Portuguese international fed a nice pass into Malbranque who turned and applied a wonderful left foot finish into the top corner.

The Whites started the second half with intent as Heidar Helguson’s turn and snap shot forced Pollitt to smuggle the ball behind at his near post.

Malbranque tried his luck again in the 48th minute as, once again, he found space in the area and attempted to curl a shot inside the far post. The shot took a deflection which was almost put in by Helguson on the stretch.

The French playmaker was visibly playing further up the pitch in support of Fulham’s front pair, and his trickery on the ball was starting to be felt by the Wigan back line.  Evidently Simon Elliott had also been instructed to play further up the pitch as he took station in a more advanced position on the right side of midfield.

Although Fulham were looking a more dangerous proposition in the second half, Wigan were still looking to out work the Whites in midfield and slide passes through Fulham’s defence for the runs of Roberts and Camara. 

The visitors began to increase their efforts to find the equaliser as the clock ticked down.  And with Fulham still looking to put the match beyond reach on the counter attack, spaces were starting to appear between the Whites’ defence and midfield.  In fact, both teams looked to have broken free of the shackles that had so constrained the first half.

Fulham’s brightest hope in attack was Malbranque who was often finding himself receiving the ball from a congested Fulham defence with is back to goal. 

As in the last home match against Charlton, Chris Coleman brought on Phillippe Christanval to provide a defensive screen in front of the back line.

However, the substitute almost turned provider soon after his introduction when he played an angled pass into the path of the rapidly advancing Radzinski, who was unable to take full advantage.

Fulham survived a late scare when David Connolly swung and missed with the goal at his mercy. His shot fell to Camara on the left of goal who could only turn and scuff his shot out of play.

Match Information

Competition: Barclays Premier League

Date: Monday 24 April 2006
Kick-off: 8:00pm

Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Attendance: 17,149

Referee: Rob Styles

Fulham

Line-up: Niemi; Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Bridge; Malbranque, Elliott (Christanval 85'), Diop, Boa Morte; McBride, Helguson (Radzinski 72')

Unused substitutes: Crossley, Volz, John

Wigan Athletic

Line-up: Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz, Jackson, Baines; Teale (Connolly 87'), Bullard, Kavanagh, McCulloch; Camara, Roberts

Unused substitutes: Wright, Thompson, Johansson, Ziegler

As It Stood Table

Pos Club Pl Pts
1 Chelsea 35 88
2 Manchester United 35 79
3 Liverpool 35 73
4 Tottenham Hotspur 36 60
5 Arsenal 35 58
6 Blackburn Rovers 35 54
7 Newcastle United 36 54
8 Bolton Wanderers 35 52
9 Wigan Athletic 36 51
10 West Ham United 35 49
11 Charlton Athletic 36 47
12 Everton 36 46
13 Middlesbrough 34 43
14 Fulham 35 42
15 Manchester City 34 40
16 Aston Villa 35 39
17 Portsmouth 36 35
18 Birmingham City 36 33
19 West Bromwich Albion 36 30
20 Sunderland 35 12
Fulham (4-4-2)
  • 29Antti Niemi
  • 17Liam Rosenior
  • 6Zat Knight
  • 35Ian Pearce
  • 31Wayne Bridge
  • 4Steed Malbranque
  • 27Simon Elliott
  • 14Papa Bouba Diop
  • 11Luis Boa Morte
  • 20Brian McBride
  • 10Heidar Helguson
Substitutes
  • 1Mark Crossley
  • 2Moritz Volz
  • 19Philippe Christanval
  • 13Tomasz Radzinski
  • 15Collins John
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2)
  • 12Michael Pollitt
  • 2Pascal Chimbonda
  • 6Stéphane Henchoz
  • 4Matt Jackson
  • 26Leighton Baines
  • 20Gary Teale
  • 21Jimmy Bullard
  • 8Graham Kavanagh
  • 10Lee McCulloch
  • 27Henri Camara
  • 33Jason Roberts
Substitutes
  • 3David Wright
  • David Thompson
  • 11Andreas Johansson
  • 23Reto Ziegler
  • 22David Connolly