Dickson Etuhu produced a sublime finish in the 87th minute at Bloomfield Road on Saturday to earn Fulham a 2-2 draw with Blackpool.
Blackpool welcomed top-flight football back to Bloomfield Road on Saturday afternoon for the first time in 39 years, with Ian Holloway’s side having suffered mixed fortunes in their first two Barclays Premier League fixtures ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Following their glorious opening day thrashing of Wigan, Arsenal brought the Tangerines back down to earth with a 6-0 thumping at the Emirates last weekend.
Fulham arrived at Bloomfield Road on the back of last Sunday’s memorable home performance against Manchester United (2-2) and a 6-0 mid-week rout in the Carling Cup.
Following Wednesday night’s emphatic cup victory over Port Vale the Whites were drawn against Stoke City (away) in the Third Round ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League encounter.
Mark Hughes named a familiar starting eleven for Saturday’s encounter, with David Stockdale retaining his place in goal after his a highly impressive start to the 2010/11 season.
There were, however, two notable changes to Fulham’s line-up, with Stephen Kelly selected at left back and Moussa Dembele partnering Bobby Zamora in attack.
Ian Holloway handed Luke Varney his debut following the striker’s loan move from Derby on Friday afternoon. Holloway also brought Brett Ormerod back into the side following last weekend’s heavy defeat to Arsenal.
With England Manager Fabio Capello in attendance, this was another fine opportunity for Bobby Zamora to impress, and he did just that, ahead of Sunday’s squad announcement for next week’s international matches.
Zamora and Dembele got the match underway at Bloomfield Road and it was Blackpool’s new loan signing, Varney, who forced Stockdale into the first meaningful save of the game, with a volley that the young keeper parried away to safety, after four minutes of play.
Blackpool thought they had taken the lead when Ormerod directed a header beyond Stockdale from Stephen Crainey's cross, but the celebrations were cut short as it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Arguably against the run of play, Fulham took the lead in the first half through Bobby Zamora after 35 minutes. The opportunity arose thanks to Duff’s perfectly weighted through ball to Dembele down the right channel. The striker, racing towards the by-line, clipped the ball back to Zamora, who headed home from just three yards.
Blackpool responded immediately and almost equalised two minutes after Zamora’s goal when Adam produced a stunning free-kick from 35 yards that flew just over Stockdale’s cross bar.
Three minutes before the break Danny Murphy came within a whisker of doubling Fulham’s lead. Fulham’s captain collected a short corner from Davies on the left, before cutting inside his marker and delivering a searing low right-footed drive that flew just wide of the near post.
It was certainly an open, attacking game with Zamora handing Hughes’ side the advantage at the break.
Zamora was certainly in confident mood on Saturday and almost grabbed his second of the game after 50 minutes with an instinctive volley from 25 yards that forced Gilks into a low save to his right.
Only seconds later Blackpool were awarded a free-kick just inside Fulham’s half. The delivery from deep rebounded off a host of players in the area before Taylor-Fletcher fired towards goal from 8 yards. Fortunately for Fulham Stockdale was alert and produced another smart save.
At the other end Dembele was enjoying another fine game for Fulham since his recent transfer to SW6. Mark Hughes appears to have unearthed a real gem of a striker, who highlighted an array of impressive attributes on Saturday.
After 58 minutes Mark Hughes made his first substitution of the game, replacing Bobby Zamora with Clint Dempsey. Zamora appeared to have taken a knock in a challenge moments earlier. Fulham fans will be hoping the striker is fighting fit for next week’s internationals if the striker is called up by Fabio Capello on Sunday.
The home crowd were celebrating on the hour mark when the ball was rifled into an empty Fulham net. However, the cheers were cut short as the Referee spotted an infringement on David Stockdale in the build up to the goal.
The second half was certainly an entertaining spectacle, with both teams attacking at will. With Blackpool chasing an equaliser, Fulham were finding space on the counter attack with greater frequency as the game entered the final half hour.
With the game finely balanced the next goal would effectively hand Fulham all three points or lift the roof off Bloomfield Road. It went Blackpool’s way twenty minutes from time when John Pantsil turned the ball into his own net after David Stockdale had saved Varney’s drive across goal.
Blackpool were on fire in the minutes following their equaliser and David Stockdale was forced to produce a stunning fingertip save to deny Adam’s fierce long range drive that was heading for the top corner.
After 76 minutes Blackpool took a 2-1 lead when Varney combined with Ormerod before beating the offside trap and applying a cool finish past Stockdale.
With the final stages of the match fast approaching Fulham looked to rescue at least a point, with Dembele almost pulling the Whites level following a brilliant run into the box. Unfortunately Vaughan did well to force Dembele’s shot over the bar.
Mark Hughes made his second substitution of the match with four minutes remaining, introducing Jonathan Greening for Damien Duff.
Three minutes from time Dickson Etuhu came to the rescue for Fulham, bringing the game level (2-2) with a sublime finish. The midfielder latched onto Dembele’s pass before producing the sweetest of chips over the advancing Gilks.
The Whites were evidently not satisfied with just a point, they wanted all three, judging by the way Mark Hughes' Team drove forward in the dying minutes in search of a winner.
Davies almost delivered a fairytale finish deep into injury time with a fine strike from distance that Gilks parried to safety. After four minutes injury time the final whistle called time on a truly entertaining affair at Bloomfield Road.
Fulham returned to SW6 with a deserved point on Saturday evening and will be back in action on Saturday 11 September, when Mark Hughes’ side return to the Cottage to take on Wolves.