Both Nicky Shorey and Stefano Okaka made their Fulham debuts as the Whites made a tentative start to this vital game at the Cottage. The first ten minutes certainly saw Portsmouth have the better of the opening exchanges – with Frederic Piquionne in particular drawing a fine save from Mark Schwarzer early on.
Portsmouth were enjoying the upper hand in the midfield battle as both Danny Murphy and Jonathan Greening were quickly finding themselves short on time in possession.
But the Whites soon settled into their defensive shape making life harder for Avram Grant’s men when in possession. The attacking tactics used by Portsmouth were certainly reaping fewer dividends.
Aaron Hughes came close to opening his Fulham account on 24 minutes when he got his head to a well placed corner from Damien Duff, forcing David James into a fine fingertip save on the line.
A Portsmouth counter-attack on 23 minutes saw Kevin Prince Boateng wriggle his way through the packed heart of the Whites’ defence, only to see his shot well held by Schwarzer.
Stefano Okaka came close to causing confusion in the Portsmouth penalty area when he almost got on the end of a dangerous Damien Duff delivery into the area. With David James in two minds as to whether come for the ball or stay on the line, his choice of staying put ended up being the correct decision as Okaka just failed to make contact.
Fulham’s loan striker came within a whisker of putting the Whites in front on 32 minutes after good work from Jonathan Greening. The Fulham midfielder rose high in the area to nod a cross into the path of Okaka, who was loitering at the far post. Unfortunately, the Italian striker could not make sufficient contact to direct the ball past James.
A fine passing move from Fulham involving Kelly, Murphy, Okaka and Greening enabled Zamora to receive the ball in a dangerous area. The striker managed to dummy past two defenders before his shot was blocked from six yards.
There was danger in the Fulham area just minutes later when a clearance dropped to Frederic Piquionne whose shot was well blocked by a diving Stephen Kelly.
Roy Hodgson’s men certainly made a better start to the second-half than the first – immediately putting Pompey on the back foot and pressing the opposition high up the pitch. The change in tempo meant Portsmouth were less able to commit men forward with regular frequency, and as a result both Piquionne and Dindane were forced to work harder so see the ball.
Fulham’s first substitution of the game came relatively early when, on 55 minutes, Stephen Kelly was replaced by Kagisho Dikgacoi. The move saw Dikgacoi join Danny Murphy in the centre of midfield with Chris Baird shifting to right-back.
Following a lull in play, Danny Murphy and Damien Duff got the Whites moving again. Murphy skipped away from a challenge in midfield and played a pass to Duff who cut on to his left foot on the edge of the area and forced a corner after working a good shooting opportunity.
As the second-half progressed the play started becoming somewhat fragmented in nature with play punctuated by a number of stoppages and throw-ins. Of the two sides, Fulham were attacking with greater purpose but Portsmouth were still able to trouble the Whites, albeit through a more direct style of football.
Stefano Okaka’s debut ended on 69 minutes when he was replaced by Erik Nevland in a like-for-like swap.
Fulham took the lead through Jonathan Greening on 74 minutes after Damien Duff did well to get to the by-line and fire a low cross across the face of the six yard box. The ball ran past Zamora but Greening was on hand at the back post to emphatically place his shot past James.
Fulham’s final substitution of the evening saw David Elm replace Bobby Zamora on 77 minutes. Elm and Nevland immediately struck up an understanding.