After a not very merry Christmas period, the Whites got back on track with a fruitful start to the New Year, as January witnessed three wins, two draws and just two defeats.
2013 began with a trip to The Hawthorns to face high-flying West Bromwich Albion, with Fulham returning to London for a well-deserved three points. Our FA Cup with Budweiser campaign began at home to Blackpool the following Saturday and, after a 1-1 draw in that match, we needed extra-time to beat them at Bloomfield Road 10 days later. In between our clashes with the Tangerines, we’d drawn with Wigan Athletic at the Cottage, before we then suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Manchester clubs. We ended the month on a high, though, with a crucial win over West Ham United on a cold Wednesday night by the banks of the Thames.
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Fulham – 01.01.2013
Fulham and West Brom played out the first match of the New Year in the day’s lunchtime kick-off, but Martin Jol’s men made it worth the early start with a crucial win in the Midlands. Dimitar Berbatov had already spurned a decent chance by the time he put us ahead in the 39th minute with a move that he started himself. The Bulgarian sprayed a delightful ball out to Ashkan Dejagah on the right wing before continuing his run forwards. Dejagah worked some space before cutting the ball across to Berbatov who had timed his run perfectly to sweep home first time. A suspiciously offside-looking strike from Romelu Lukaku brought the Baggies level four minutes after the restart but the boys didn’t let their heads drop and were rewarded when Alexander Kačaniklić hit the winner just before the hour mark. Bryan Ruiz found him with a pristine pass and the Sweden international showed neat control to swivel and finish beyond Ben Foster.
Fulham 1-1 Blackpool – 05.01.2013
Our FA Cup with Budweiser campaign began with a home clash against npower Championship side Blackpool. Bryan Ruiz came closest to scoring for Fulham in the first half when his free-kick was kept out by Seasiders stopper Matt Gilks, while David Stockdale twice had to deny Thomas Ince in the opening period. The second half began slowly and the visitors took the lead with the first meaningful attack on the hour mark. Loanee Nathan Delfouneso found Ludovic Sylvestre who hit an accurate shot beyond Stockdale and inside his far post. Fulham struggled to break down a well organised Blackpool defence, but there was nothing they could do about Giorgos Karagounis’ equaliser on 80 minutes. Ruiz’s corner had been cleared only as far as the European Championship winner 25 yards from goal who let fly with a beautiful dipping volley that sailed over the ‘keeper before dropping beneath the angle of post and crossbar.
Fulham 1-1 Wigan Athletic – 12.01.2013
Karagounis grabbed his second goal in as many games when Roberto Martinez’s men visited the Cottage a week later, and it was another strike that oozed quality as he dropped a shoulder to beat his man before lashing a fierce low drive across Ali Al Habsi’s goal that cannoned into the back of the net via a post. Unfortunately, though, we were unable to kill the Latics off and they found a way back into the match with Franco Di Santo’s clinical effort on 71 minutes. Fulham pushed for a winner but it was not forthcoming, although Ruiz was immensely unlucky to see his stoppage time strike incredibly cleared off the line by Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa.
Blackpool 1-2 Fulham (AET) – 15.01.2013
The Whites ensured their progression to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with a gruelling extra-time victory over Blackpool at a freezing Bloomfield Road. It had looked as though we were heading out of the competition when Delfouneso capitalised on a failed clearance to hand his side an 82nd minute lead, but the Tangerines’ celebrations were cut short when substitute Kieran Richardson volleyed home a stoppage time equaliser from outside the box. Captain Brede Hangeland then popped up to head home from a corner with four minutes left of stoppage time to prevent a penalty shoot-out.
Manchester City 2-0 Fulham – 19.01.2013
Despite dominating possession at the Etihad Stadium, Fulham put in a below-par performance against the champions, with David Silva’s brace securing them the win. The Spaniard had put his side in front within the opening two minutes, reacting first to the loose ball after Mark Schwarzer had denied Edin Dzeko. Steve Sidwell then hit the post after half an hour, but City made sure of the points in the second period through Silva’s neat clipped effort.
Manchester United 4-1 Fulham – 26.01.2013
Our FA Cup campaign came to a very abrupt halt at Old Trafford as the 11-time winners of the competition knocked us out at a canter. Things got off to a disastrous start when Aaron Hughes handled when trying to defend a corner, with Ryan Giggs’ subsequent penalty just about squeezing beyond Schwarzer’s hand. 1-0 was how it stayed until the second half but then on 50 minutes Wayne Rooney doubled the advantage, before Javier Hernandez made it three just seconds later. Hernandez got his second after the hour mark, while Hughes’ accurate header from Karagounis’ corner with quarter of an hour remaining proved to be little consolation.
Fulham 3-1 West Ham United – 30.01.2013
We leapfrogged our London rivals in the Barclays Premier League table with this crucial victory as the Whites ended the month in style. Berbatov settled any early nerves after just 10 minutes when he bravely stooped at the far post to head in Damien Duff’s free-kick – the Hammers appealed in vain for an offside flag that was not forthcoming. West Ham hauled themselves level shortly after the restart when Kevin Nolan lashed home confidently following a quick free-kick, but the visitors fell behind almost instantly when Hugo Rodallega got in between three defenders to head Duff’s cross beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen. Both sides had opportunities to score again, and thankfully Fulham did just that in stoppage time when Mladen Petrić’s dinked shot was turned into his own net by Joey O’Brien.