Martin Jol praised the team effort of his side as Fulham defeated Stoke City on Saturday afternoon, although our Manager did admit that we relied on a couple of exceptional individual performances, too.
Dimitar Berbatov’s world class strike in first half stoppage time proved to be the winning goal, while Mark Schwarzer made sure of the points when he kept out Jonathan Walters’ penalty on 56 minutes.
“I think it was a team effort,” he said. “If you look at the midfield – Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis – you saw the work rate and the work effort, because we have a problem with their style. It was a team effort but a couple of players made the difference today. Mark Schwarzer made it our day because we may have lost two points again if the penalty kick had gone in.
“Schwarzer made three great saves. In the first half from Walters when they got in behind our defence, then when Philippe Senderos tried to hold off his man – that was a great save – and, of course, the penalty.
“Dimitar always scores between 15 and 25 goals [a season] so it would be silly to think that he can’t score 15 to 20 goals for us – that is what I always have in mind. His goal was a good one but I can remember him scoring a lot of great goals.
“I said a couple of months ago that he never scored from volleys anymore, that is why he came up to me! It’s the first goal he’s scored from a volley [for Fulham] and in the past he did that all the time. He tried to prove a point because he’s a good sport.
“We’ve got other players who can make a difference but he and Mark certainly made a difference today.”
The victory moved the Whites – for the time being at least – up to 11th in the Barclays Premier League table, and Jol was pleased to secure three vital points that he believes his side deserved.
“Overall, if you saw the first half, I think we were the better team,” he explained. “But it’s always difficult against them. They changed their system, they put all these big guys up front, they play this style and it was not easy for us.
“We should have scored a second goal and we didn’t, so in the end they could have punished us for the fact we only scored one goal. But, of course, we’ve got Mark Schwarzer who saved the game and the three points for us.
“It’s about players. If you’ve got good football players, they can pass it around. Giorgos, for example, in the first half – he made the difference for us in midfield. That is what I knew, and that is what he showed.
“Of course we’ve got good players but sometimes you need to play ugly against teams like Stoke to get results and to earn the right to play your own football, and I think in the first half we did that.
“I felt before the game that we had a few vital games this year. West Ham United was one of them, Newcastle United was one of them, and Norwich City last time – because we could have been dragged into a situation with five or six other clubs.
“Now we are surrounded by Sunderland, Stoke – who are having a very good season – West Ham, who were flying and are now below us. So I think these points are vital to us.”