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By Mark Armstrong
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Norwich City slumped to a heavy defeat at Craven Cottage this afternoon as the Chris Hughton era started with a whimper.
The Canaries were well beaten by a classy Fulham side that mercilessly reminded City’s travelling contingent of the task facing them to survive in the Premier League once again.
Damien Duff got the ball rolling for Martin Jol’s men with a cool finish after the City back four had been caught sleeping and they doubled their lead thanks to a Mladen Petric header before half-time.
The Croatian made it 3-0 early in the second period when his long range effort took a wicked deflection off Michael Turner to leave John Ruddy helpless. But the goal of the afternoon came when a flowing move involving Petric and Moussa Dembele ended with Alex Kacaniklic sliding past Ruddy.
Norwich’s misery was complete in the 85th minute when Michael Turner brought down Hugo Rodallega and substitute Steve Sidwell hammered home the penalty.
Andrew Surman was the surprise inclusion in Chris Hughton’s starting XI with the former Wolves man charged with being the link man between midfield and lone striker Grant Holt.
Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass flanked Holt from the left and right respectively but it was clear from early on that they were going to have to adopt a defensive brief as Fulham piled forward in the first period.
The danger signs were there in the 10th minute when Alex Kacaniklic skipped past Russell Martin down the left hand side and stood up an inviting cross to the back post. Fortunately for City, his opposite winger Duff had not gambled on the cross and Tierney was able to head clear.
City constantly gifted possession back to Fulham in the opening 15 minutes and Holt cut a lonely figure up front, trying to feed off long diagonal balls with little support.
Michael Turner got caught ball watching in the 12th minute allowing Duff to latch on to Brede Hangeland’s ball over the top but the former Sunderland man recovered well to snuff out the danger.
City had their first and only real chance of the half shortly after when Holt’s deft flick played in Surman behind the Fulham back four. The midfielder never looked comfortable on his right foot though and his hesitation cut the angle down on him allowing Schwarzer to make a routine save at his near post.
Watching England manager Roy Hodgson would have been unimpressed by John Ruddy’s clearance in the 18th minute as it went straight to Bryan Ruiz but the Chilean lofted his effort over the crossbar under pressure from Turner.
Ruddy made up for this aberration midway through the half though when the increasingly influential John Arne Riise got in behind Robert Snodgrass and Russell Martin but his left-footed effort was saved well by the legs of the England international.
It was one-way traffic and only a matter of time before the Canaries’ resistance was finally breached and so it proved in the 26th minute. Riise’s long diagonal ball bisected the City defence and as Tierney vainly appealed for offside Duff was able to poke the ball past Ruddy.
Snodgrass had a 25-yard free-kick sail over the bar but Fulham looked the more likely to add to their lead and four minutes before the break City’s task became even harder.
Ryan Bennett made an excellent saving tackle just as Ruiz was about to pull the trigger but from the resulting corner Petric headed home despite the best efforts of Jonny Howson on the line.
It almost got worse for City before the break but Ruddy did well to tip Ruiz’s free-kick over the bar.
• Half-time: Fulham 2, Norwich City 0
Steve Morison came on for Surman at the start of the second half but it was effectively game over nine minutes into the second period as Petric grabbed his second of the afternoon.
The summer signing from Hamburg picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and after not being closed down his left-footed strike deflected off Turner and flew past Ruddy.
Snodgrass was immediately substituted with Elliott Bennett asked to shore up the right flank which had proved such a profitable attacking outlet for the Londoners.
It made little difference though and in the 66th minute it was 4-0 to Fulham after a lovely move. Dembele toyed with the Canaries on the edge of the box before feeding Petric, whose gorgeous flick played in Kacaniklic, who fired past Ruddy.
City almost pulled one back immediately with a long range effort from Bradley Johnson but Schwarzer scrambled the midfielder’s effort away with his legs.
Kacaniklic could have got his second late on after fine work down the left by Riise but his left-footed effort was deflected wide.
Fulham got the fifth their dominance deserved in the dying embers of the game when Turner brought down Rodallega inside the area and Sidwell rammed home the penalty.
• Norwich City (4-4-1-1): Ruddy, R Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Tierney, Pilkington, Howson, Johnson, Surman (Morison, 45), Snodgrass (E Bennett, 55), Holt (Hoolahan, 77). Subs not used: Rudd, Vaughan, Lappin, Barnett.
• Fulham (4-5-1): Schwarzer, Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Ruiz (Sidwell, 81), Diarra, Dembele, Duff (Kasami, 75), Kacaniklic, Petric (Rodallega, 67). Subs not used: Stockdale, Kelly, Baird, Halliche.
• Goals: Fulham: Duff (26), Petric (41, 54), Kacaniklic (66), Sidwell (pen, 87)
• Bookings: None
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 25,062