Saints leave it late
Published 26/12/2012 | 17:30
Rickie Lambert's late penalty secured Southampton a hard-earned point in west London as Fulham's poor recent run continued in a 1-1 draw.
Fulham came into the match with just one win in 10 matches but got off to the best possible start, taking the lead inside eight minutes as Kelvin Davis could only fumble a Sascha Riether cross into the path of Dimitar Berbatov, who duly slotted home off balance at the far post.
After a number of missed opportunities, Southampton grabbed a late leveller. Saints academy graduate Chris Baird was adjudged to have handled a Gaston Ramirez corner, allowing Lambert to continue his 100 per cent success rate from the spot five minutes from time.
Steven Sidwell was one of three Fulham changes and should have given them a third-minute lead as the ball was played in from the left flank and the central midfielder's low strike from the edge of the box went just wide.
The hosts needed just eight minutes to score the opener. Riether's low driven ball from the right was fumbled by goalkeeper Davis, allowing Berbatov to slot home unmarked, and the former Manchester United striker should have soon had a second goal, but nodded wide from a weighted Alex Kacaniklic cross.
Southampton's first opportunity of note took 20 minutes to arrive, with a fierce Jack Cork strike from 25 yards well dealt with by Mark Schwarzer. Davis dealt with a deflected John Arne Riise shot, before Morgan Schneiderlin put wide and a fizzing Lambert cross was cleared from danger by Baird.
Ramirez then saw a shot blocked by Berbatov as the visitors pressed for a leveller. Martin Jol brought on Bryan Ruiz in place of the impressive Kacaniklic for the second half, with Jason Puncheon fizzing an effort wide shortly after the restart.
Fulham were waiting patiently for their second goal, which was almost gifted to them by Luke Shaw. The 17-year-old left-back's uncharacteristic slip allowed Ashkan Dejagah through on goal, but the winger lost his bearings and fired well wide.
Dejagah saw a cross-shot flash wide as Nigel Adkins brought on Jay Rodriguez in a late bid to find an equaliser, which came in the 85th minute. Ramirez floated in a corner from the left and Baird was adjudged to have handled under pressure from Lambert, who stepped up to fire into the top left-hand corner.
Fulham claimed unsuccessfully for a penalty of their own shortly afterwards when Maya Yoshida barged Philippe Senderos, before Ramirez's audacious 25-yard strike slipped out of Schwarzer's grasp and had to be stopped on the line.