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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 August, 2003, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Fulham hold on for win
Fulham 3-2 Middlesbrough

Steve Marlet is congratulated by his Fulham team-mates
Marlet is congratulated by his Fulham team-mates

Fulham produced a vibrant display to start their campaign with a victory over Middlesbrough at Loftus Road.

The Londoners went behind to a Carlos Marinelli goal but responded in emphatic style.

French striker Steve Marlet equalised for Fulham before Junichi Inamoto put the home side ahead.

Boro had the chance to draw level from the penalty spot but keeper Edwin van der Sar pulled off an excellent save from Malcolm Christie.

Louis Saha added a third from Fulham who conceded a late goal to Szilard Nemeth to endure some nervous moments before holding on for three points.

10 mins: Marinelli puts Boro ahead
17: Marlet equalises for Fulham
56: Inamoto powers in a shot for Fulham
70: Saha extends Fulham's lead
81: Nemeth pulls one back for Boro

Fulham had been stung into action in the opening 60 seconds when a Juninho volley was saved.

Fulham started to fizz the ball about in eye-catching fashion but Steed Malbranque, Steve Marlet and Louis Saha failed to take chances which came their way.

Middlesbrough punished them for their profligacy when a mistake from defender Martin Djetou let Marinelli in.

The Argentine cut in from the right and side-footed a shot past keeper Van der Sar.

It took Fulham seven minutes to get back on level terms when Marlet made up for his earlier miss.

It was Frenchman's Marlet's first goal in 17 games for the Londoners and he powered home a shot after new signing Jerome Bonnissel's cross was flicked on by Saha.

The game continued at a high pace and Boro's new midfield signing Doriva was just wide with a 20-yard shot.

Carlos Marinelli (right) celebrates his opening goal against Fulham at Loftus Road
Marinelli and Boro's celebrations were shortlived

At the other end, Marlet was again causing problems for the visitors and it took a fingertip save from Boro keeper Mark Schwarzer to deny him a second.

The half-time break did not stem the pace of the game, especially from Fulham's part and they were the more likely to add to their goal tally.

They should have gone ahead after 58 minutes but Inamoto shot through thin air when he missed the ball from six yards out.

The Japan international atoned for his embarrassing error when he thundered in Saha's pull back just minutes later.

Inamoto's fortunes continued to fluctuate and he conceded a penalty at the other end for a challenge on Joseph Desire-Job.


Christie stepped up to take the spot-kick only to see Van der Sar pull off an excellent save low to his right.

Saha was then in the right place at the right time to provide Fulham with a two-goal cushion, which they needed after letting in Szilard Nemeth to score for Boro before securing a win.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Volz, Bonnissel, Djetou, Goma, Legwinski, Inamoto, Clark, Malbranque, Marlet (Boa Morte 90), Saha (Hayles 71). Subs ot used: Crossley, Knight, Buari.

Booked: Legwinski.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Wright, Greening, Juninho Paulista (Nemeth 73), Boateng (Cooper 78), Doriva, Christie, Marinelli (Job 55). Subs not used: Nash, Downing.

Booked: Southgate.

Attendance: 14,546.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

BBC Five Live's David Oates
"Fulham demonstrated grit and flair in equal measure"

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