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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 January 2006, 16:56 GMT
Fulham 1-0 Newcastle
Steed Malbranque celebrates his goal with Fulham team-mate Collins John
Steed Malbranque's predatory strike earned Fulham victory against Newcastle as keeper Antti Niemi was rarely troubled on his Cottagers' debut.

Shay Given kept Fulham at bay in the first half, palming away efforts from Tomasz Radzinski and Heidar Helguson.

Substitute Malbranque finally broke the deadlock when he sidefooted home Collins John's rebounded shot.

Newcastle tried to save the match and Lee Bowyer was agonisingly denied when his shot was cleared off the line.

Newcastle boss Graeme Souness, wary of losing a third straight away game, had adopted a policy of staying deep - and Fulham quickly took advantage.

Given clawed away Helguson's reflex volley and then Radzinski forced him to turn his 25-yard drive over the bar.

The Republic of Ireland keeper saved the visitors again when he safely collected Helguson's goalbound header.

At the other end, debutant Niemi was under much less pressure. The Finn safely came through his only real test in the first half, coolly catching Charles N'Zogbia's shot in the 17th minute.

Things got better for Souness after the break as Niemi immediately had to punch away Nolberto Solano's fizzing cross.

Alan Shearer tried to wriggle free of Ian Pearce as Newcastle kept up their pressure, but all he could do was poke the ball to Lee Clark, who drove the ball wide.

But Newcastle's spark soon faded and Shearer once again found himself digging his side out of trouble in defence.

Fulham were unlucky as Radzinski's right-footed shot was blocked by Bowyer.

Malbranque, back from injury, muscled through the packed defence only to see his shot smartly saved by Given.

But the match desperately needed a goal and the Frenchman provided one after 75 long minutes as he collected John's rebounded shot and slid the ball home.

John, another Fulham substitute, nearly doubled the score when his 12-yard strike rattled off the bar.

It could have been costly as Bowyer broke free only to see his strike booted to safety by Niclas Jensen.

  • Fulham boss Chris Coleman:
    "We had to get rid of the poor display against Leyton Orient. We were all disappointed with ourselves after that.

    "We concentrated all week and psychologically it's a big win for us.

    "It was a tough game for 90 minutes but I think we dominated and I couldn't have asked more of the players."

  • Newcastle boss Graeme Souness:
    "It's a difficult time for us but we just have to solider on.

    "We have long-term injuries to key players and they are the difference when games are tight.

    "There is no money to spend, so what we've got is what we've got, but sometimes these players are going to come up short."

    Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Niclas Jensen, Radzinski (Malbranque 62), Boa Morte, Legwinski (John 73), Elliott, Helguson, McBride. Subs Not Used: Warner, Volz, Goma.

    Booked: Legwinski.

    Goals: Malbranque 75.

    Newcastle: Given, Carr (Elliott 45), Boumsong, Ramage, Babayaro, Solano, Bowyer, Clark, N'Zogbia (Chopra 77), Shearer, Luque (O'Brien 80). Subs Not Used: Harper, Brittain.

    Booked: Clark, Carr.

    Att: 21,974

    Ref: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

    Interview: Newcastle boss Graeme Souness

    Interview: Fulham assistant boss Steve Kean


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