There were mixed emotions for Bryan Ruiz in the 1-1 draw with Southampton on Boxing Day.
Named on the substitutes’ bench after more than a month on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, Ruiz replaced Alexander Kačaniklić at the start of the second half to the delight of the Fulham faithful.
There were flashes of the Ruiz flair that Fulham have missed in the Costa Rican’s absence, but the Whites had to settle for a point when Rickie Lambert smashed home from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute to cancel out Dimitar Berbatov’s opener.
“I was really pleased to be back in the side and to play 45 minutes but I was disappointed with the result,” Ruiz told the official website. “We knew we needed to win and we couldn’t do it.
“At half-time they said I was going on and I was surprised. I was happy to play again and they just told me the position I needed to play in and what I had to do on the pitch. We started the second half well but then Southampton were playing long balls and it became more difficult for us.”
Referee Phil Dowd awarded Southampton the late spot-kick after Chris Baird had handled Gaston Ramirez’s corner.
And Ruiz admitted Fulham could have few complaints about the decision, stating: “I was in the area. The cross came in and it was too high for me so I turned and saw the ball touch his [Baird’s] hand. I think it was a penalty so it was a pity because we were close to getting the three points as it was late in the game.”
Ruiz is now hoping to stay fit and play his part as Fulham attempt to address a poor recent run which has seen the Whites win just once in their last 11 games.
“We didn’t take any risks with the injury,” he said. “We’re trying to do things properly. Now it’s a case of doing preparation work to avoid another injury.
“Every team has bad moments. At the beginning of the season we were playing really good football but we’re having a tough period now. We have to stay together and get back on track.”
The Whites have an immediate chance to return to winning ways when Swansea City visit Craven Cottage on Saturday (3pm).
The Swans, though, are flying under new manager Michael Laudrup and won 3-0 in SW6 last term.
“Now we have to play again on Saturday and hopefully we will do our best to get three points,” said Ruiz. “Swansea will be tough, we know that. They really like to play good football but so do we and if we can get back to our best, we can win.”