In their first away win in the top flight since 1961, Cardiff City grabbed all three points and could have sealed Martin Jol’s fate as (former?) Fulham manager.
At Craven Cottage – what used to be a West London fortress of sorts – Fulham have just a single win in the league since February and today conceded their third disastrous late goal already this season.
The bad news started early for Jol’s side as Scott Parker was forced off after just five minutes with an injury, replaced by 35-year-old Giorgis Karagounis.
The misery continued as shotty set-piece defending led to the opening goal for Cardiff in the 12th minute. A corner sent in to the far post saw Stephen Caulker beat Steve Sidwell in the air, connecting with a powerful header back into the near post for the score.
The goal caused Fulham to play even more frantic and desperate, and Cardiff picked their battles well on the pitch.
Already down a sub due to the injury, Jol may have felt his bosses breathing down his neck when he uncharacteristically produced a tactical sub in the 41st minute, replacing Alex Kacaniklic with Costa Rican captain Bryan Ruiz.
Wouldn’t you know, it paid off. Just five minutes following the substitution, Ruiz produced a brilliant goal out of nothing – something that has been mind-bogglingly absent from his game despite the obvious ability.
Ruiz received the ball from Riether at the top of the box and curled a wonderful ball around the keeper and into the top left corner, leaving David Marshall with nothing to do but watch and leveling the score at 1-1.
The second half popped back and forth, but there were not many serious threats on goal. Despite Jol’s prematch warning to Cardiff, Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov did not link up as well as Fulham would have hoped, and Bent ended up with just one good chance all game.
The away side did bring a good passing ability to their midfield. Gary Medel finished a fantastic 68/69 passing, and made 5 tackles and 3 interceptions in defense.
Pajtim Kasami had a good opportunity to give Fulham all three points late in the 83rd minute, as he brought the ball into the box on his own weaving through defenders, but he was closed down at the last minute and the defense forced a very weak finish. Kieran Richardson also went close in added time, as his cross flashed across the face, and although it eluded all Fulham frontmen, it almost found the far post and went it, but just missed.
That was when the axe came down for Fulham and possibly Jol. Cardiff substitute Jordan Mutch broke the home fans hearts with a brilliant goal in extra time out of nothing.
He won the ball on an arial challenge with Richardson, and he fired a thunderbolt into the top corner that even Zeus himself would be proud of.
The loss sends Cardiff home with their second win of the season and three points Malky Mackay will no doubt say he deserved. For Fulham, they remain in dire straights now in 18th position, with just a single win on the season and countless points dropped late in matches.
Fulham – Ruiz 45′
Cardiff – Caulker 12′, Mutch 90+3′
Fulham – Stockdale; Hangeland, Richardson, Riether, Amorebieta; Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis, 7′); Kasami, Kacaniklic (Ruiz, 41′), Berbatov; Bent (Taarabt, 84′).
Cardiff – Marshall; Taylor, Caulker, Turner, Theopile-Catherine; Medel, Whittingham, Bo-Kyung (Mutch, 56′), Gunnarsson; Campbell (Maynard, 72′), Odemwingie.