Wednesday 21 February 2018

Berbatov adds steel to stylein lighting fire under Fulham

West Brom 1
Fulham 2

John Percy

Dimitar Berbatov is the antithesis of a muck-and-bullets trench fighter, but he will undoubtedly keep calm and carry Fulham towards safer territory.

Berbatov is the greatest enigma in the Premier League since Eric Cantona and a maverick probably not designed for the unforgiving battlegrounds of a grim relegation scrap. But here he led by example and even finished the game operating as a makeshift left-back to help Martin Jol's side secure only their second victory in 13 games.

Fulham's preparations had been sabotaged by a deafening fireworks display outside their Birmingham city-centre hotel, but that did not stop Berbatov's flashes of genius lighting up the Hawthorns as Steve Clarke's team suffered only their third home defeat of the season.

Fulham's alarming freefall had raised fears of a fight to avoid the drop to the Championship but, with Berbatov in this mood, the Fulham manager will sleep more soundly than he did on New Year's Eve.

The £4m summer signing was typically absorbing to watch but there was also a rarely-seen steely resolve from a player renowned for his languid style of play, as he constantly cajoled his team-mates and chastised them for the temerity of not passing him the ball.

And while it was Alexander Kacaniklic who provided the most telling contribution with his 58th-minute winner, Berbatov's performance helped to cheer up Jol no end.

Berbatov was clearly in the groove from the start, and was involved in all of Fulham's more threatening moments.

Six minutes before half-time, he sent Ashkan Dejagah clear with a lofted pass and then timed his run perfectly to receive the cross and stroke the ball past Ben Foster.

West Brom were level four minutes into the second half. Billy Jones cleverly worked his way inside Matthew Briggs and his cross was bundled in by Romelu Lukaku.

Fulham regained the lead on 58 minutes when Kacaniklic picked up a sublime Bryan Ruiz pass and punished Foster's decision to advance out of his area by sliding the ball into an unguarded net.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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