Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov scored a brace on his home debut to guide Martin Jol's side to victory over 10-man West Bromwich Albion.
The 31-year-old, making his first start since a deadline-day move from Manchester United, opened the scoring in the 32nd minute before adding a second from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time, with Steve Sidwell adding a third in the closing stages. West Brom forward Peter Odemwingie was sent off in between Berbatov's strikes for violent conduct as Steve Clarke's side lost their first Barclays Premier League game of the season.
The home side dominated possession in the opening stages but it was West Brom winger James Morrison who produced the first effort of quality. On a rare early foray forward the winger, who signed a new contract yesterday, collected the ball from Billy Jones before forcing a smart save from Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Jones then pulled a low cross back across goal but neither Shane Long or Marc-Antoine Fortune had gambled on making a run and the ball was eventually cleared.
Fulham's early dominance subsided but they were still looking lively in the final third without testing Ben Foster in the visitor's goal.
Berbatov's goal came just after the half-hour mark following some good work from Alex Kacaniklic. The young winger showed good feet when surrounded by three West Brom defenders before rolling the ball into Berbatov, who bent his effort inside Foster's left-hand post.
West Brom came close to an immediate equaliser as from a free-kick Fulham captain Brede Hangeland threw himself in front of Jonas Olsson's shot. Moments later West Brom were reduced to 10 men when Peter Odemwingie was shown a red card by Roger East for kicking out at Sascha Riether.
The hosts were awarded a penalty in first-half injury time when Jones fouled the busy Kacaniklic. Berbatov stepped up confidently and sent Foster the wrong way.
Clarke made two changes at the start of the second-half, replacing Long and Fortune with Chris Brunt and Romelu Lukaku, but it was Fulham who continued to press.
Brunt forced Schwarzer to tip a long-range effort over the crossbar just after the hour and the Northern Ireland midfielder's corner then hit the outside of Schwarzer's post.
Clarke's other half-time introduction then tested Schwarzer as Lukaku was picked out by Brunt before shooting low and hard at the Australian. Foster then made a low save from Sidwell's long-range effort and managed to claw the loose ball away from the on-rushing Damien Duff.
Despite struggling to maintain Fulham's attacking players Clarke decided to introduce Markus Rosenberg from the bench with 15 minutes remaining in an attempt to claw a goal back. Foster continued to pull off save after save and denied both Berbatov and Rodallega towards the end of the game. But he was powerless to stop Sidwell adding the third with only a minute to go.
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|29 Sep 2012||v Man City (H)|
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|20 Oct 2012||v Aston Villa (H)|
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|03 Nov 2012||v Everton (H)|