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BBC Sport's Simon Hill
reports from Vicarage Road
 real 14k

Watford manager Graham Taylor
"Fulham are an exceptional side"
 real 14k

Fulham's Lee Clark
"We've got to keep focused"
 real 14k

Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 13:54 GMT
Boa Morte batters Watford
Boa Morte
Luis Boa Morte's marksmanship made all the difference
Watford 1-3 Fulham

Fulham's unstoppable march towards the Premiership left Watford trailing in its wake with an emphatic victory at Vicarage Road.

Jean Tigana's First Division pace-setters survived some spirited Watford resistance as they attempted to cement their own play-off spot.

But the class of Fulham's forwards, Luis Boa Morte and Louis Saha, ensured that inspiration overcame perspiration.

Boa Morte - whose career has been revived under Tigana at Craven Cottage - scored twice in the space of seven minutes to give Fulham a stranglehold on the game.

And even when Watford were allowed back in the game late on, courtesy of Heidar Helguson's outrageous handball finish, Fulham's composure was not disturbed.

Louis Saha added a third to make the First Division promotion race look a formality, even at this relatively early stage of the campaign.

Watford will curse Tommy Mooney's missed open goal in the first half, but in reality they could have few complaints, despite their energy and commitment.

But Watford, without suspended captain Robert Page, had the better of a fiercely contested opening 45 minutes.

Top scorer Mooney, with 16 goals before kick-off, should have added to his tally as Watford pressed to step up their own promotion claims.

Jean Tigana
Tigana marches on
He escaped the attentions of the Fulham defence to race on to Paolo Vernazza's pass, but his finish was misdirected.

Mooney was guilty of an even more glaring miss after 19 minutes, when he was left with the goal at his mercy following good work by Tommy Smith.

Smith rolled the ball into Mooney's pass eight yards out, but he failed to make any sort of connection and Fulham goalkeeper Maik Taylor clawed the ball to safety.

Boa Morte was always a threat for Fulham, and had claims for a penalty rightly turned down by referee Dave Pugh when he tumbled theatrically under challenge from James Panayi.

Fulham had a more justified appeal rejected when Steve Finnan was upended by Allan Nielsen.

Watford were enjoying the majority of possession, but Fulham were threatening as the interval approached, and should have taken the lead two minutes before half time.

Darren Ward's back pass fell short of Alec Chamberlain, allowing Boa Morte to beat Watford's keeper to the ball, but the big defender recovered to clear.

Watford suffered a blow at half time, when striker Gifton Noel-Williams had to be replaced by Heidar Helguson.

And the game turned dramatically in Fulham's favour inside a minute right on the hour.

Watford were within an inch of taking the lead when Mooney headed against the bar - leaving Fulham to sweep upfield to take the lead.

Saha's pace drove at the heart of Watford's rearguard, and when Neil Cox inadvertently slid the ball into Boa Morte's path, he rounded Chamberlain with ease to score.

Gifton Noel-Williams
Noel-Williams - substituted
Boa Morte was at it again seven minutes later, when he again slipped away from Chamberlain and doubled Fulham's advantage from Lee Clark's incisive pass.

Watford were thrown the unlikeliest of lifelines after 78 minutes, when substitute Helguson scored with the most blatant handball that will be seen on any English ground this season.

Helguson emerged from a goalmouth scramble to clearly punch the ball home, but the incident was amazingly missed by referee Pugh and his assistants.

This outstanding Fulham team responded in real style almost immediately, Bjarne Goldbaek setting up Saha for their third.

Tigana's team held a ten-point victory at the top of the league after this win - and they look in the mood to ensure nobody topples them from their perch.


Watford: Chamberlain, Cox, Palmer, Kennedy, Panayi, Ward, Nielsen, Smith, Vernazza, Mooney, Noel-Williams. Subs: Baardsen, Hyde, Wooter, Helguson, Perpetuini.

Fulham: Taylor, Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Symons, Davis, Clark, Fernandes, Goldbaek, Saha, Boa Morte. Subs: Sahnoun, Riedle, Neilson, Stolcers, Hahnemann.

Referee: D Pugh (Bebington)

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See also:

13 Jan 01 |  Eng Div 1
Fulham 2-0 Norwich
18 Jan 01 |  Eng Div 1
Chamberlain relishing Fulham test
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