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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 21:56 GMT
Fulham 2-1 Middlesbrough
By Owen Phillips

Heidar Helguson
Helguson celebrates his 12th-minute opener
Brian McBride grabbed the crucial goal as Fulham edged a lively and entertaining game against fellow Premiership strugglers Middlesbrough.

Boro began brightly and Stewart Downing and James Morrison could have put them ahead in an impressive opening burst.

But Fulham took the lead when George Boateng tripped Moritz Volz and Heidar Helguson calmly scored from the spot.

McBride's curling shot made it 2-0 but Mark Viduka's composed finish gave Boro hope after a poor Antti Niemi kick.

Fulham's win seemed unlikely after a frantic opening which was dominated by Boro.

Downing twice went close with vicious curling free-kicks, the first flew inches over and the second forced Niemi to hurriedly beat the ball away.

The impressive Morrison then jinked his way through only to see his fierce drive superbly saved by the home keeper.

But with a visiting goal looking imminent the west Londoners took the lead when Boateng was ajudged to have unfairly ended Volz's rampaging run into the box and Helguson calmly rolled the ball home from the spot.

It was tough on Boateng who made a genuine attempt to play the ball but inadvertently clipped Volz's ankle.

Boro hit back instantly and Fulham were grateful for a fantastic interception by Philippe Christanval which prevented Viduka from tapping the ball home after more good work by Morrison.

606 DEBATE: Give your thoughts on the match

Both sides were now creating chances at will with the pace of Boro's Morrison and Downing as well as Fulham's Radzinski and Wayne Routledge to the fore.

Radzinski missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 when he lofted the ball straight into Mark Schwarzer's arms after being put through on goal.

At the other end, Franck Queudrue headed narrowly wide against his former club and Yakubu unleashed a swerving low drive that Niemi did well to fumble past the post.

Boro boss Gareth Southgate's side, still chasing a first Premiership away win of the season, were looking dangerous in attack but their injury-hit defence seemed far from comfortable and Fulham took full advantage to double their lead before the break.

Radzinski fed the ball into McBride and with the Boro defence backing off, the American had time to curl the ball into the bottom corner with the help of a deflection off Chris Riggott.

McBride nearly grabbed his second moments later but dragged his shot narrowly wide.

McBride and Yakubu both had chances before the half-time whistle and although the frenetic pace continued after the interval the chances dried up.

Schwarzer's acrobatic stop denied Helguson from grabbing his second with an equally athletic headed attempt and Queudrue went close with another headed effort.

But, with the game petering out, Boro were thrown a lifeline when Niemi made a dreadful hash of a goal-kick and Viduka raced through on goal and finished with typical quality, dinking the ball over the keeper.

Yakubu and Viduka tested Niemi with decent curling efforts as the visitors poured forward towards the end but Fulham stood firm to record a second consecutive home win.


  • Fulham manager Chris Coleman:
    "We had so many bodies missing, about nine. The players were dropping like flies but it was a game we needed to win.

    "We were nervous to start with but then we got the penalty and settled down a bit. It was a tough game but the attitude was tremendous.

    "It wasn't pretty but who cares - it's the points that count."

  • Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
    "We created plenty of chances and coming in at half-time I couldn't believe we were 2-0 down.

    "We had enough pressure and enough opportunities and I thought we deserved something from the game. But you can't give teams a two-goal start.

    "We caused them a lot of problems and I can't ask for any more commitment."


    Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Christanval, Knight, Queudrue, Routledge, Brown, Volz, Radzinski (Bocanegra 70), McBride, Helguson.
    Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Runstrom, Zakuani, Niclas Jensen.

    Goals: Helguson 12 pen, McBride 35.

    Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby (Wheater 88), Davies, Taylor, Arca (Cattermole 46), Riggott, Morrison (Johnson 73), Downing, Boateng, Yakubu, Viduka.
    Subs Not Used: Jones, Christie.

    Goals: Viduka 74.

    Att: 17,000

    Ref: M Dean (Wirral).

    SEE ALSO
    Fulham v Middlesbrough photos
    18 Dec 06 |  Football


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