It took two moments of first-half brilliance to put Fulham up on Crystal Palace, but the Cottagers cruised to victory in the second half. The match finished 4-1, with Palace’s defensive woes burying it before the hour mark.
New Fulham owner Shahid Khan made his way to Selhurst Park, but the club didn’t do much to make a positive first impression. Jamaican defender Adrian Mariappa scored in the seventh minute, jumping higher than center back Brede Hangeland to head home a deflected cross on top of the six-yard box.
Hangeland, who is eight inches taller than Mariappa, made way at halftime, perhaps partly because of his error on the opening goal. Coming into the game, Fulham was winless in 25 league games when conceding first.
But Pajtim Kasami wasn’t scared. He drew the Cottagers level in the 19th minute, taking an aerial ball off his chest and smashing home a volley from a poor angle. After the ball looped to him on the right edge of the penalty area, he did not break stride with his first touch and twisting, right-footed volley.
Not to be outdone, Steve Sidwell gave Fulham the lead just before halftime. In the 45th minute, Bryan Ruiz hit the wall on a free kick, and the ball bounced straight down. After a large bounce, Sidwell lined it up about 22 yards from goal and smashed it into the top left-hand corner of the goal.
Of the four total shots on target in the first half, three ended up in the back of the net, including both of Fulham’s efforts.
The visitors kept up the pressure early in the second half. Palace goalkeeper Julián Speroni mis-hit a clearance in the 49th minute, striking an onrushing Dimitar Berbatov. Darren Bent picked up the loose ball, but Speroni saved face by pushing his shot wide for a corner.
On the ensuing set piece, Berbatov did what Bent could not, scoring his team’s third of the game. Mariappa jumped with him, but the Bulgarian managed to get his header on target despite the Jamaican’s arms all over him.
The next Fulham corner came to the same result. This time, it was Philippe Senderos who bundled home his effort to seal the result. Speroni was on the spot, but the ball sneaked under him and over the line.
Palace’s hopes for a comeback were extinguished in the 66th minute, when Dwight Gayle had a goal called back for offside. A poor touch from Fulham left back Kieran Richardson set up the opportunity when Damien Delaney nipped in a touch on top of the penalty area.
However, Gayle ran into the area far too early and was offside by about six yards. Home fans and players shouted for a penalty, as they thought Richardson took down Delaney illegally, but referee Lee Mason only blew his whistle for offside.
Kasami almost sealed the game with another world-class finish, but Speroni extended to his left to parry away the Swiss midfielder’s strike with the outside of his left foot from outside the penalty area. On the other end, Maarten Stekelenburg punched away a long-range effort from Dean Moxey in the 88th minute.
In the end, Martin Jol won the battle between two under-fire managers, his team good enough for a three-goal margin against Ian Holloway’s side. Palace remains in 19th place (one win, no draws, seven losses), while Fulham is tied for 13th with Aston Villa (3-1-4).
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Julián Speroni — Dean Moxey, Damien Delaney, Adrian Mariappa, Joel Ward — Mile Jedinak, José Campaña (Jerome Thomas, 46), Stuart O’Keefe — Yannick Bolasie, Dwight Gayle (Kevin Phillips, 69), Jason Puncheon (Marouane Chamakh, 56)
Unused substitutes: Lewis Price — Danny Gabbidon, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Jimmy Kébé
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg — Kieran Richardson, Brede Hangeland (Fernando Amorebieta, 46), Philippe Senderos, Sascha Riether — Steve Sidwell, Scott Parker — Pajtim Kasami, Dimitar Berbatov (Hugo Rodallega, 90), Bryan Ruiz — Darren Bent (Damien Duff, 77)
Unused substitutes: David Stockdale — Elsad Zverotić, Giorgos Karagounis, Derek Boateng