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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 August 2005, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Fulham 0-0 Birmingham
Luis Boa Morte
New Fulham captain Luis Boa Morte hit the bar as the Cottagers played out a tense stalemate with Birmingham.

Boa Morte, linked with a transfer away from Craven Cottage, saw his deflected shot loop on to the woodwork seconds before the end of the first half.

For the Blues, Julian Gray shot wide when a pass to Emile Heskey was on.

Mikael Forssell forced a stop from Fulham's Tony Warner near the end, while a Collins John shot was well saved by Blues' keeper Maik Taylor.

Fulham enjoyed the better of the possession, particularly in the second half, but both teams will feel they had chances to win the game.

There was no shortage of commitment, although the game was somewhat lacking in finesse.

After a quiet opening period, Steed Malbranque had the first shot of note on 17 minutes, unleashing a dipping effort which Taylor held.

But the match picked up, and Brian McBride created havoc in the Birmingham penalty area with a header across goal.

Debutant Fulham goalkeeper Warner was not called into action until just before the half hour, holding Heskey's looping header with ease.

At the other end, Malbranque saw a goalbound effort blocked.

In the closing seconds of a poor half, Fulham came within inches of snatching the lead as a quick break saw Boa Morte put clean through.

The striker saw Taylor smother his first shot, then watched as his deflected follow-up looped on to the crossbar.

Fulham began the second half brightly although Birmingham's well-marshalled defence held them at bay.

But it was Birmingham who should have scored on the hour mark, Gray zipping into the box and shooting just wide when a pass to the unmarked Heskey was on.

Fulham came back and Taylor saved a Claus Jensen free-kick, while McBride saw a header into the net chalked off for offside.

The home side pressed and another Jensen free-kick was saved, before Malbranque blazed over at the far post.

But Birmingham still threatened and Moritz Volz almost headed into his own net after Jermaine Pennant's probing cross.

Birmingham substitute Forssell forced a good save from Warner late on, while for Fulham, John's late shot was smothered by Taylor.


Fulham boss Chris Coleman said:
"I thorougly enjoyed the game. There were incidents at both ends. I was happy with my players.

"The effort was fantastic I couldn't ask for any more from the guys in terms of effort and commitment and that's what we're looking for.

"Last year we had too many pretenders and we've addressed that."

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce said:
"A lack of midfield goals has always been our Achilles heel. We only scored 40 goals in the Premiership last year.

"We've tried to address that with the addition of Walter Pandiani, Mikael Forssell and Jermaine Pennant.

"Everybody's got to contribute to be a successful team, goals have to come from everywhere."


Fulham: Warner, Volz, Rehman, Knight, Niclas Jensen, Malbranque, Legwinski (Elrich 90), Claus Jensen, Boa Morte, McBride, Radzinski (John 45).
Subs Not Used: Helguson, Batista, Leacock.

Booked: Legwinski.

Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Upson, Cunningham, Clapham, Pennant, Butt, Clemence, Gray, Heskey (Morrison 87), Pandiani (Forssell 71).
Subs Not Used: Izzet, Lazaridis, Vaesen.

Booked: Clemence, Upson.

Att: 16,550

Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Fulham boss Chris Coleman


Interview: Birmingham boss Steve Bruce



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