Friday, 27 May 2011

The other half - FUL 2 - 2 ARS

Andy has asked me to guest-write the blog for the last game of the season. I have no idea why, because he knows just as well as me that literally minutes after a match has finished I can’t recall any details of what I’ve just watched. I’m exactly the same with films. I can enjoy them immensely, but the finer plot points – and even some of the key moments – escape my memory just as soon as it’s over.
And so it’s true of football – five days on from Fulham v Arsenal, I couldn’t actually describe to you any of the action, not even the goals. In fact I can remember more of Samir Nasri’s goals in the original fixture back at the Emirates which I was also at in December.
Talking of Samir Nasri – I do remember thinking what a fashion faux pas his orange boots with red socks were. I know you’ll be thinking that’s such a ‘girl’ thing to say – but I’m really not that sort of girl usually – it’s just what stuck in my mind.
Part of the reason I don’t remember many of the key moments – i.e. the goals - is that, at eight months pregnant, I couldn’t be doing with jumping up and down from my seat every two minutes to see what was going on. Even when I do stand up I can’t see very much as I’m somewhat of a shortarse.
I just about recall Bobby Zamora’s headed goal – mostly because I’m a Brighton fan, and as one of our former players I still like to see him doing well – especially after the tricky season he’s had with his broken leg.
And one of my favourite things to happen at the Cottage capped off what’s likely to be the last time I’m there for a league match… the ball got walloped over the Riverside Stand – and I just love the animation on the normally staid scoreboard depicting the ‘ball’ floating along the river. Small things….
I guess the one thing riding on this match for Fulham fans was whether or not they’d clinch the Europa League qualifying round spot through the fair play league. Which is why everyone was left reeling and asking: “Just what was Zoltan Gera thinking?” when he went in with his two-footed tackle on Thomas Vermaelen. Fulham’s FIRST red card of the season (until that point the only Premier League side not to have been given one).
I think most people thought Fulham had just gifted the spot to Blackpool – but in fact, it was yesterday announced that Fulham WILL be going on a European tour next season, after clinching the place ahead of the Tangerines by just 0.01 points.
That means less than a month off for the players, who’ll be back for training ahead of that first qualifying match on June 30th!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Fair play to the lads

After my recent fit of pique at the Liverpool performance where I felt so let down by the team, I have just been left with this gnawing irritation with myself for letting it get under my skin. It must be something to do with my Manchester upbringing that gives me this gut dislike for the Pool - it's not healthy, I really must shake it.
Anyway, to my great surprise, England have qualified for the extra fair play European spot. I would have thought the spate of red cards in Europe for Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham would really have put paid to that route into Europe.
And, gratifyingly, well-behaved Fulham are in a good position to take that spot. This is assuming that Tottenham beat lowly Birmingham at White Hart Lane on Sunday. 3 points for the Spurs would guarantee them fifth place in the Premier League and a 'proper' Europa League spot. If they are pipped to fifth by Liverpool, who are playing away at Aston Villa, then Spurs are more likely to snaffle the Fair Play entry. So what's Tottenham's motivation to beat Brum then, given they are more or less guaranteed European football regardless? How about an extra month's holiday? Fair Play entrants are placed in the First Qualifying round of the Europa Cup, which starts on June 30, fifth placed finishers drop in at the play-off stage on 18 August, by which time the Premier League season has started anyway.
Looking over the recent matches for Fulham, it woudl seem the club is also eyeing that extra holiday given that the club has attracted 10 yellow cards in the past two matches when previously they only attracted 40 yellows in 35 games. To shoot up from an average of 1.14 cards per game to 5 cards per game has left many very suspicious that the team is trying to avoid fair play qualification, which would leave the door open for Blackpool to qualify instead, so much so that Mark Hughes has been forced to come out and say that he wants it. The Fair Play Table is not just judged on cards though, there are all kinds of intangibles marked such as respect to the referee and 'positive play', so it'll be pretty tricky to predict which team will prosper.
Surprisingly Fulham could once again achieve 7th place in the league (by beating Arsenal and hoping Chelsea turn Everton over at Goodison Park - a 15/2 double), equalling their highest ever perch and the position they last qualified for Europe in sparking last season's epic trip to Hamburg. However with the final in Bucharest 1,600 miles away, a road trip this time is not an option, so if Fulham do get the fair play spot it might be worthwhile for fans to place a sneaky each way bet on Fulham to win the competition to cover any potential trip to Romania.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pathetic - FUL 0 - 3 LIV*

Once again, my interpretation of the score is different to the officially recorded one. That's because I went home after 15 minutes. Yep. 15 minutes. I'd entered the game full of hope and optimism in a great mood after seeing some Liverpool-supporting pals of mine in The Crabtree beforehand, only to be brought crashing down to earth in seven minutes which have been by far the worst I have ever seen at the Cottage. As I walked up into the stand I noticed that Zamora was on the bench - a funny decision given the torrid time Bobby had given the Liverpool back line next season. And so it proved.
Liverpool's Manchester United-esque start to the game, followed by their Barcelona-style short passing/high pressing caused havoc among a previous sturdy backline, who never started and allowed Liverpool to swamp them with ease.
I was particularly upset given I'd been talking up Fulham's chances and was expecting to see a vibrant match against two teams in form. After the second goal was easily dispatched with all the defenders culpable (but Salcido especially so) I decided that I wanted a drink. Only the Fulham jobsworths wouldn't serve me until half time. Fuming about this as much as the football, I watched the game on the monitors near the Jacko statue and watched as Kuyt took a weak shot that hit the side netting. Only it didn't. Somehow it squirmed past Schwarzer for the third after barely 15 minutes. I weighed up my options. No alcohol for 30 minutes and a rampant Liverpool scoring goals they barely deserved because of the worst Fulham performance I have seen in four seasons. So I went home.
Made it home in time for Dembele's goal to be told Fulham are playing pretty well, but it's too late to start playing when you're three-nil down at home. All Liverpool had to do was turn on the gas again to motor past the whites and achieve a 2-5 scoreline that was scarcely believable before the match.
Anyway I realised that if I prepared to leave a match after 15 minutes then I really had no right being a season ticket at Fulham, and so I have relinquished my seat for next season. An impending little one and a potential move back up north were also factors, but my actions on Monday sealed the deal. I've decided I'm not even going for the season finale against Arsenal.
The one thing I did get right in my preview was the prediction that Suarez was the type of player that causes problems for the Fulham back line. The guy was unplayable.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Calling the odds - Fulham V Liverpool

I'm rather confused at the betting markets for tonight's match. Liverpool are the red-hot favourites to win, with Fulham as long as 12/5 with Victor Chandler, but that's not really reflective of how Liverpool tend to fare at Craven Cottage. Last year Liverpool were demolished, thanks to two red cards, in what was a pretty poor season for them, but the season before they only snatched a win in injury time courtesy of Yossi Benayoun (although they did hit the bar four times in that match). Even further back Dempsey's first Fulham goal was a vital winner against Liverpool (albeit a second string ahead of the CL final).
Basically, Fulham tend to make Liverpool earn any points they get from the Cottage, not that the betting market reflects that. The recent form of the two teams doesn't suggest such a one-side encounter either. Fulham's home form has been imperious since the turn of the year. They've won eight out of ten matches, drawn another (against Chelsea when they missed a last minute penalty) and only lost the aberration of the Bolton FA Cup match, Scoring 25 in the process and conceding just 5. Meanwhile since the turn of the year Liverpool's away form reads: P: 11 W: 3 D: 2 L: 6 F: 11 A: 13. So in my opinion Fulham are outstanding value at 12/5 to win tonight.

Correct Score: Being bullish I would say 3-1 to Fulham, which is generally available at 25/1. Liverpool HT/ Fulham FT, given only Chelsea and Arsenal have better second half form than Fulham in the league, also has some value at 40/1 with Sportingbet.

First goalscorer: There's been six penalties in the last six games Liverpool have been involved in, three for and three against. So a penalty scorer would be a sensible bet, especially as Fulham have yet to concede a goal from the penalty spot this season. Kuyt, who takes Liverpool's penalties, and has been in good form anyway, is available at a generous 8/1 from William Hill. Danny Murphy - Fulham's regular penalty taker is 20s, also at William Hill. Recently Dempsey has been trying to muscle in on the penalty taking, but Murphy will no doubt flex his captaincy muscles against his former club. Suarez is the type of player that gives the Fulham back line problems though and you can get on him at 7s, again with Hills. For a longer shot - Simon Davies has also started scoring and tends to go on runs of netting; he's generally available at 25/1.

Sod's law: You can also get 5/1 on a player to be sent off with Paddy Power. Given Fulham are going for the Fair Play award and have yet to have had a player sent off this season, it's almost a given.

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