A sublime Jimmy Bullard free-kick secured a first win of the season for Fulham when newly promoted Sheffield United visited South-West London.
The home side began the game brightly, with Bullard and Papa Bouba Diop controlling the midfield, and our energetic new arrival from Wigan Athletic twice called Paddy Kenny into action early on with ambitious efforts from range.
At the other end, the Blades did their best to get at the Fulham defence, but Philippe Christanval was alert to any danger and snuffed out two attacks with relative ease.
But, on the whole, the Whites were well in control of the game and were just missing the goals their dominance deserved. Collins John went close to breaking the deadlock before the half-hour mark when he found space in the box, only to see his shot bounce off the far post.
A breakthrough seemed imminent and it duly arrived six minutes before the break as Bullard nabbed his second goal in four days, having also netted from the penalty spot against Bolton Wanderers in midweek.
Brian McBride was fouled by Chris Morgan 25 yards from goal in a position that was crying out to be bent in by Bullard’s right-foot. The midfielder executed his set-piece to perfection, getting it up and over the wall, at the same time as bending away from Kenny and inside the top left-hand corner. It was an immaculate goal from the man Chris Coleman described as ‘the best £2m we ever spent.’
Danny Webber thought he’d equalised for the visitors just before the break, but his strike was ruled out for offside. That sparked a mini-period of pressure from United, though, as they created two opportunities after the interval as Rob Hulse’s acrobatic effort flew wide, before Mikele Leigertwood’s long-range volley required a save from Antti Niemi.
But Fulham came back into the game and Tomasz Radzinski should have done better after being put through by Bullard, before the midfielder almost doubled his tally when his fierce shot struck a post.
Another opportunity to put the game to bed arrived late on but McBride’s shot across the face missed the target. However, the Whites secured the win nonetheless as they moved up to ninth in the table.
From the archives
The Observer – Sunday 27th August 2008
‘Bullard gets Fulham buzzing but Blades again lack edge’ by Stuart Barnes
“Fulham's season is up and running after the impressive Jimmy Bullard fired in a sweet free-kick for the winner. Bullard and Collins John also hit the woodwork in a solid team performance which deserved a bigger margin of victory. United fared no better than they did at Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, lacking nothing in effort but again missing a cutting edge.
“Neil Warnock had a surprise in store on his first appearance in a Premiership dug-out. The Sheffield United manager, banned from the touchline for the first two matches of the season, deployed his influential midfield player Phil Jagielka in a central defensive position alongside the captain Chris Morgan.
“Unfortunately for Warnock, Bullard accepted the invitation to exploit the areas Jagielka might have been patrolling and twice early on brought Paddy Kenny into meaningful action. It was third time lucky for Bullard after 39 minutes. The former Wigan player lined up a free-kick 25 yards from goal after Morgan had been penalised for a challenge on Brian McBride, placed it perfectly and Kenny barely moved a muscle as the ball found the top-right corner of his net.”