Horrid Start For The Hoot…
A dominant Fulham took Norwich City to pieces on the opening day of the season, it was quite the horror show for the Canaries who were well, well beaten.
CHRIS HUGHTON’S first game in charge of the Canaries saw his preferred 4-5-1 formation come into play. England’s John Ruddy began in goal, still buzzing from his midweek international debut. His back four saw Marc Tierney return from long-term injury, with Ryan Bennett and new signing Michael Turner as the centre-backs, while Russell Martin was at right-back. In midfield City started with Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass on the flanks with Jonny Howson, Andrew Surman and Bradley Johnson acting as a central trio. Up front, on his own was skipper, Grant Holt.
England boss Roy Hodgson was amongst the spectators at Craven Cottage as the Canaries kicked off under the gaze of the summer sun. It was a bit of a chilled start to proceedings though Michael Turner was looking a decent buy already, calmly pushing Duff away from goal after a long ball over the top nearly caught out Norwich. But in truth there had been very few chances thus far. Just past the 15 minute mark Norwich tested Schwarzer as charming build-up play between Holt and Surman resulted in the former smashing in a low shot into the near post. Though the experienced goalkeeper stood up well and blocked the effort down low. Fulham were gifted a response by the usually dependable Ruddy. The big keeper fluffed his kick, Ruiz picked it up and tried to lob the England stopper – though the ball flew over the bar, sparing Ruddy’s blushes! Though Ruddy redeemed himself with a fine stop from Riise. Fulham strung together a few passes before the former Liverpool man was set through by Diarra. He drilled in a low shot though Ruddy made a fine save with his legs to keep City level. Ruddy was growing a little busier as Fulham began to look the better side.
The hosts came forwards again as a chipped ball forwards found Petric he took it down and let fly with a volley, but Ruddy got down well to save at his near post. It was certainly coming when Fulham took the lead just short of the half hour. A long ball was punted forwards and the Canaries got caught out. Duff beat the offside trap as Tierney got caught out, he advanced on Ruddy and dinked the ball towards the corner – the keeper got a more than decent foot on the ball though couldn’t prevent it dribbling into the back of the net. City tried to mount a response as Snodgrass won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, the former Leeds man took it himself though couldn’t make it dip enough and the ball disappeared into the stands. Ruddy was called into action after Petric got bundled over by Tierney. The resulting free-kick was an awkward one for Ruddy who got a touch on the ball as it bobbled away for a corner. City were seeming a tad more assured as Ryan Bennett did brilliantly to deny Ruiz a shot at goal, diving in and giving Fulham a corner. From the resulting corner Fulham went 2-0 up. Petric was unmarked as he won his header, Howson desperately tried to hack it off the line but it had already crossed it. Any hopes of opening day joy for Norwich were fast evaporating. Two could have been three after Johnson fouled Dembele. From Ruiz’s resulting free-kick Ruddy was called into action, tipping the ball over the crossbar.
It certainly hadn’t been the best of halves for City who had offered very little going forwards. It was up to Hughton to rally his troops in the dressing room to salvage something in the second period.
Steve Morison entered proceedings with Andrew Surman being replaced. It sparked a reshuffle with City going two up top for the second half. City got a glimmer via their substitute as he scrambled a ball across, though Holt and Pilkington weren’t in much of a position to capitalise. But soon enough the points were all but in the bag for Fulham, as August 18th began to resemble that fateful day back at Craven Cottage in May 2005. Petric stepped up from distance and let fly, it took a wicked deflection off Turner and flew into the top corner. Hughton took action with Snodgrass being withdrawn for Elliott Bennett. Morison was doing his utmost to lead from the front, charging down Schwarzer’s clearance though it only resulted in a goal kick.
City’s opening day went from bad to capitulation as they trailed by 4. It was simple really for the hosts, a string of passes saw Kacaniklic set through and he rolled the ball past John Ruddy. Finally City managed to hand Schwarzer a save, Johnson stepped up from distance though the Australian’s trailing leg sent the ball away. The Canaries built again though Howson’s shot was blocked, before Holt’s header flew comfortably wide. Grant Holt was taken off with 13 minutes left, Wes Hoolahan replaced him. Pilkington had an individual penalty claim turned down, before Kacaniklic won a corner after his effort was deflected wide – with the hosts searching for a fifth. After the initial corner was cleared, Rodallega was bundled over by Turner and Fulham were awarded a penalty. Sidwell stepped up and thrashed it into the back of the net, Fulham 5-0 Norwich City.
Fulham really good? Norwich really bad? None of that really mattered. Chris Hughton has a big job on his hands to rally his men ahead of next week’s clash with QPR, who were also heavily beaten 5-0 at home to Swansea City. It most definitely was not the start anyone of a yellow and green persuasion was hoping for!
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