Clint Dempsey returned to Fulham’s starting eleven for Sunday’s game against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in the absence of the injured Bobby Zamora. The US international partnered Andy Johnson in attack.
Dempsey was the only change from the starting eleven that was defeated 3-2 at the Britannia Stadium 12 days earlier.
Prior to Sunday's game Blackburn had failed to record a victory at Ewood Park since November 7th 2009 when they defeated Portsmouth 3-1. Rovers were without Pedersen and Diouf for Sunday’s contest whilst Dunn had to settle for a place on the bench.
During the early stages of the game Blackburn attacked down Fulham’s right flank but their probing efforts gave little cause for concern in the final third. At the other end Dempsey and Johnson showed some early promise with several incisive one-touch passing moves on the counter attack.
Fulham were certainly showing greater attacking initiative in the first twenty minutes and looked ever more likely to break the deadlock as the minutes passed. After 17 minutes Dempsey rose above Nelson to head goalwards from a Gera cross. Robinson was well positioned to save with ease.
Against the run of play Samba gave Blackburn the lead after 24 minutes. The defender’s opportunity arose following a blistering long-range shot by McCarthy, which was parried away for a corner by Schwarzer.
From the resulting set piece Samba was the first to react to a loose ball 7 yards out and the defender smashed his effort past Schwarzer. The home side had taken the lead from their first noteworthy attack of the contest.
Blackburn’s goalscorer Samba was booked two minutes later following a late, high challenge on Andy Johnson. The striker appeared to take the full weight of the defender’s challenge on his right leg. Fortunately Johnson returned to the fray after receiving treatment.
Johnson saw his first sight of goal just after the half hour mark when he broke free down right flank. The striker blasted a fierce effort goalwards, which flew over Robinson’s bar.
The evidence of play suggested it would only be a matter of time before Fulham would equalise. Hodgson’s side carved Blackburn’s defence apart during the first half but could not find a clinical finish, largely due to the fine form of Robinson in goal.
There was little Robinson could do when Clint Dempsey struck the cross bar with an overhead kick before the keeper was called into action to parry the ball away to safety twice in as many minutes.
Fulham played some superb passing football on Sunday, in complete contrast to the direct approach of the home side. Fulham dominated the contest following Samba’s opener up until half time but went into the break a goal behind and could quite rightly have felt aggrieved at the score-line.
Hodgson was forced to make one change for the second half; with Kallio replacing Konchesky after the defender took a knock towards the later stages of the first half. Fulham started the second period in the manner they ended the first - dominating possession with neat one-touch football. What was missing was the killer pass and finish to capitalise on some fine build up play.
As in the first half Blackburn scored against the run of play after 54 minutes to take a 2-0 lead. Rovers earned a free kick deep down the left flank following a foul by Kelly. McCarthy delivered an in-swinging free kick to the near post and the unmarked Nelson raced in to head past Schwarzer. It was a crushing blow for Fulham who had nothing to show for the efforts.
Fulham’s injury woes deepened on the hour mark when Clint Dempsey was forced from the field of play after suffering an injury to his right knee. Erik Nevland came on for the injured American in attack.
Nevland almost had his first sight of goal after 66 minutes when Duff played a reverse pass through Blackburn’s defence. The Norwegian striker was just beaten to the ball 8 yards from goal. Moments later Robinson produced another fine save to deny Gera’s snapshot volley from the right hand side of the area.
Andy Johnson was the next to come close to reducing the deficit when he nicked the ball off Robinson 16 yards from goal. Johnson turned the keeper but then fired wide of goal with a right footed cross shot.
Baird and Gera were booked during the final stages of the game following late challenges down Fulham’s right flank. Despite their continued efforts to reduce the deficit there was no way back for the Whites who endured a frustrating afternoon at Ewood Park. The bitter taste of defeat on Sunday was made worse by injuries to Konchesky and Dempsey.
Fulham will now begin preparations for next weekend’s FA Cup clash against Gillingham or Accrington Stanley before they return to Barclays Premier League action on Tuesday 26th January against Spurs at White Hart Lane.