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Fulham ended their long wait for a win tonight as Hugo Rodallega's header proved enough to see off Newcastle in an entertaining encounter at Craven Cottage.
The Colombia international’s goal was the difference in a tight affair by the Thames in which the west Londoners ensured their winless streak would not stretch to an eighth match.
Fulham came into the game without a victory since mid-October but got off to an ideal start when Steve Sidwell's 19th-minute strike deflected off Mike Williamson and looped in.
It was the Cottagers' first goal in 317 minutes and they would have had several more were it not for some good defending and the fine form of goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Newcastle, though, were proving an increasing threat and Sascha Riether twice cleared off the line, before the returning Hatem Ben Arfa drew the visitors level in the 54th minute with a deflected effort.
However, Fulham were not to be denied and, nine minutes after the Magpies had drawn parity, Rodallega headed in a free-kick by former Magpies’ midfielder Damien Duff to secure all three points for the hosts.
Martin Jol’s charges made five changes for tonight's game and started brightly, with off-balance winger Alex Kacaniklic putting wide after just 55 seconds.
It was the first of a number of early Fulham half-chances, although the Magpies soon settled. After a few warning shots, Papiss Cisse collected a poor Mark Schwarzer clearance and came close to finding Demba Ba.
The chance seemed to jolt Fulham into life and Rodallega came close with an acrobatic strike after collecting a ball from Duff.
The pair linked up again in the 19th minute as Fulham ended their goal drought with the latter pulling back for Sidwell, whose strike took a deflection off Williamson and looped over Krul.
After waiting more than five hours for a goal, Fulham fans almost got to witness two in as many minutes. Dimitar Berbatov, who gave a sublime perfoamce, cut out a weak Cheick Tiote pass and burst past Fabricio Coloccini at the halfway line, only for Krul to thwart the Fulham frontman when through on goal.
The former Manchester United striker was again denied by Krul in the 29th minute. After only managing to palm a fierce Riether cross into the path of Berbatov, the Netherlands international did well to recover and deny the Bulgarian before Williamson cleared.
It triggered a spell of Newcastle pressure in which they threatened to draw level, with Riether having to clear a powerful Coloccini header from the edge of the box off the line on 31 minutes.
Newcastle were again cursing the German right-back on the stroke of half-time when he again denied them on the line, with Ba the man frustrated this time.
The visitors continued in the ascendancy when the second half resumed, and Anita – managed by Fulham's Martin Jol during the pair's time at Ajax – flashed a 47th-minute strike just over the bar.
Berbatov then fired into the side-netting when Fulham returned to the attack, before Schwarzer looked as Ben Arfa struck a 54th-minute equaliser. The Frenchman marked his return to the starting line-up after four games out with a goal from 22 yards that curled in off John Arne Riise and the crossbar, leaving a bemused Mark Schwarzer in a heap in the net.
Schwarzer’s opposite number Krul was having no such problems and did well to deny Sidwell as he searched for a second. The Netherlands international was soon beaten, though, as Duff floated in a free-kick from the right and Rodallega nodded home unmarked from six yards.
Newcastle surged forward in search of another equaliser as Fulham sat back waiting to pounce on the break, Coloccini sending an exquisite curled strike against the post at the other end.
Substitute Shola Ameobi, Ba and Jonas Gutierrez were all denied by Schwarzer as United pushed forward, before Aaron Hughes blocked a late Ba strike.
In a frenetic finale to an entertaining match Berbatov was denied a deserved goal as the game came to a close, while substitute Mladen Petric struck the woodwork from distance.
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "I was so happy we could score the first goal, that was our problem the last couple of weeks. After the first goal we should have scored at least two or three. [Dimitar] Berbatov should have scored.
"I think we were the better team before that [the equaliser], but they've got all the quality in the world so I was a bit concerned.
"[Berbatov] is unbelievable. He worked everyone hard, he was on the left, on the right, he was all over the pitch.
"Bryan Ruiz is the creative player, but he is injured so he [Berbatov] had to do another job."
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "It's a really soft second goal - a soft free-kick, soft defending on the free-kick and you can't do that at this level because we had the game by the scruff of the neck at this point.
"We played some of our best attacking football of the season, but we've still come away with nothing. Performances don't get you points.
"In the second half we were terrific other than those two or three moments. We've got no-one to blame but ourselves. I think we've conceded poor goals at crucial times and away from home it's costly. I think at home we are a threat to anybody."
|26 Dec 2012||v Southampton (H)|
|19 May 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|12 May 2013||v Liverpool (H)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Swansea (H)|
|02 Mar 2013||v Sunderland (A)|
|17 Mar 2013||v Spurs (A)|