Alex Kacaniklic

Fulham 2-2 Crystal Palace: Youngsters provide Whites glimpse of hope for Championship

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Dwight Gayle picked up a brace for Crystal Palace but relegated Fulham received a glimmer of hope as a worldly goal from young Chris David in stoppage time earned the Cottagers a point before heading down.

A 13-year Premier League run comes to an end at Craven Cottage, but the Championship will see plenty of David and fellow goalscorer Cauley Woodrow as they look to work their way back up.

The visitors, on the other hand, get a point to complete a remarkable turnaround under Tony Pulis, finishing in 11th position after being in the relegation zone for much of the season’s first half.

Crystal Palace began quickly, but the first chance of the match fell to Fulham against the run of play in the sixth minute when Alex Kacaniklic lashed at goal powerfully off a corner but Wayne Hennessey saved well.

They had another on 15 minutes when young Cauley Woodrow had a go, another powerful effort looking to clean up a mess, but it was expertly blocked by David Delaney.

The chances got Fulham stuck in, and they began to steal more of the possession and pegged Palace back.

Unfortunately, the home side were forced into an early change, as an earlier yellow-card challenge from Marouane Chamakh forced Kacaniklic off with an injury in just the 23rd minute, replaced by youngster Chris David.

They continued to press, and Hugo Rodallega had a close effort saved just before the half-hour mark as Fulham saw up to 70% of possession.

Palace had a chance on a break, as Gayle slotted in Yannick Bolaise but David Stockdale made an expert one-on-one save.

But Gayle would make good moments later off the corner, as a shot from Joel Ward powered in and found the foot of an onsides Gayle who tapped past Stockdale for the lead.

Fulham continued to come close on the other end, when Fernando Amorebieta’s header came in just before the break but they couldn’t equalize with Hennessey in fine form and walling off the chance.

After the halftime break, Fulham continued to search for a goal.  Felix Magath brought on super-sub Ashkan Dejagah, and they came desperately close to scoring soon after as Hugo Rodallega clipped the post and out in the 54th minute.  More pressure a minute later ended with Chris David skying over.

The pressure eventually got to Palace, as Fulham found their equalizer. With Hugo Rodallega on the ball in the box but with his back to the goal and no immediate options, he found Woodrow in space at a tight angle, and he finished into the far corner.

It’s a nice bit of promise for Fulham going forward into the Championship, as they will likely get a heavy dose of the 19-year-old up front next year.

As the home side pressed for a winner, they shouted for a penalty on twenty minutes to go but referee Kevin Friend waved off Chris David and replays showed he should have been booked for a shockingly embarrassing dive.

In the 83rd minute, with both sides poking and prodding at the other for a winner, Scott Parker committed a silly foul with Palace flooding towards the box. Dwight Gayle took the free kick, and he produced a howitzer through the wall and past Stockdale for the winner.

Gayle nearly had himself an accidental hat-trick as time ticked town, as a shot from Murray clattered the bar, and the powerful ricochet smacked Gayle at close range, but the unintended attempt went just wide with Stockdale on the ground.

LINEUPS:

Fulham – Stockdale; Zverotic (Dejagah 50′), Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta; Kacaniklic (David 23′), Parker, Sidwell, Richardson (Tunnicliffe 79′); Woodrow, Rodallega.

Goals – Woodrow 61′, David 90+3′

Crystal Palace – Hennessey; Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Bolasie, Jedinak (Dikgacoi 59′), Ledley, Ince (Puncheon 72′); Chamakh (Murray 74′), Gayle.

Goals – Gayle 28′, 84′

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Fulham: Whites’ hope fading fast (video)

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Fulham remain two points from safety – and that’s before Norwich and West Brom have taken to the pitch. By the time the weekend is out, the Whites’ hopes may be very bleak indeed. Tottenham, meanwhile, move to within four points of fourth, but that faint dream hinges on whether Arsenal can beat Hull City on Sunday.

For the first ten minutes or so, it looked like Fulham might actually pull off a win, lifting themselves out of danger – at least, temporarily. Not two minutes had passed before Alex Kačaniklić barreled down the right and got himself behind the Spurs defense, but he put his strike just wide. Less than a minute later, Hugo Rodallega also had no trouble getting behind the hosts’ back line, but couldn’t get a decent shot in.

(Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win)

Tottenham began working their way into the match, but had difficulty putting their shots on target. Harry Kane’s headed pass found Younes Kaboul free just in front of goal, but the defender’s header hit the top of the net. Soon after, Spurs very nearly took the lead after David Stockdale pushed away Christian Erikson’s cross. Aaron Lennon took advantage, volleying in the rebound, but Stockdale pushed the shot into the post and allowed his defense to mop up the danger.

The breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute. A lovely free kick from Erikson floated invitingly over to the far post, where Paulinho was waiting. With no Fulham players nearby, the Brazilian had no difficulty sidefooting it in from about three feet out.

Fulham, conscious of their need for all three points, responded quickly. Steve Sidwell, running through the heart of the Spurs’ defense, attepted a little 1-2 with Kačaniklić. Instead it was Tottenham defender Zeki Freyers that helped him out, providing the ball that Sidwell knocked in for the equalizer – just 90 seconds after the hosts had taken the lead.

Spurs re-took the lead just minutes after the restart. Lennon had no trouble getting past a host of white shirts to send his cross into the area. Kane slipped past Jonny Heitinga, getting his head to the ball to flick it past Stockdale and into the back of the net. That made three goals in three starts for the young forward.

History almost repeated itself two minutes later, with Rodallega going dangerously close with a header. Hugo Lloris got a hand to it, however, tipping over the bar to preserve the Tottenham lead.

In a great show of self-awareness, Tottenham decided to pad their lead just a bit, taking a 3-1 advantage in the 62nd minute. Again the impetus came from an Eriksen free kick. The Dane whipped in a fast one, Kaboul got away from his marker, and the ball came off the defenders knee to land in the back of the net.

With fifteen minutes left to go, it looked as though that extra goal would be vital. Eriksen stuck out a hand to stop Rodallega from flicking the ball forward, providing Fulham with a penalty. Sidwell, looking for his ninth Premier League goal of the season, demanded to take it. The midfielder sent in a powerful shot, but it was straight at Lloris, who had no trouble saving.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli (Dembele 67), Paulinho, Eriksen (Townsend 84); Adebayor, Kane (Soldado 79)

Goals: Paulinho 35′; Kane 48′; Kaboul 62

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga (Zverotić 66), Amorebieta, Hangeland, Riise; Kvist, Sidwell, Parker (Karagounis 56); Dejagah, Rodallega, Kačaniklić

Goals: Sidwell 37′

Watch Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham (Lineups and Discuss)

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After winning their last two matches, it seems survival might indeed be possible for Fulham – but a big win over Spurs at White Hart Lane could very well punch their ticket to the 2014/2015 Premier League (Watch live at 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Just a few weeks ago, it looked as though Fulham were headed for the Championship, sitting dead last and playing woefully. But six points from their last two matches puts the Cottagers just two points from safety. With their remaining fixtures against Hull City, Stoke and Crystal Palace, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Fulham manage to survive.

(READ MORE: PREVIEWING TOTTENHAM VS. FULHAM)

Nor is three points against Tottenham all that unimaginable. Spurs are one of the most unpredictable sides in England at the moment. They’re able to lose dramatically (4-0 to both Liverpool and Chelsea), win emphatically (5-1 over Sunderland) and come back to rescue a point (last week’s 3-3 draw with West Bromwich Albion). Spurs, too, still have a fight on their hands – fourth looks unlikely, being seven points back, but now they need to keep ahold of the final Europa League place.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

Tim Sherwood, usually so fond of making sweeping changes to his lineups, has made just one alteration from last week’s comeback against West Brom. Zeki Fryers replaces Vlad Chiriches, a change made at halftime last weekend. Sherwood keeps Emmanuel Adebayor up top, despite his missing a penalty last time out, and young Harry Kane remains alongside.

Somewhat surprisingly, Felix Magath is mixing things up, making five changes to last week’s winning side. Obviously one change is enforced: Lewis Holtby cannot play against his parent club, so Alex Kačaniklić steps in. So too do Ashkan Dejagah, John Arne Riise, William Kvist and Scott Parker.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Chadli, Paulinho, Eriksen; Adebayor, Kane

Subs: Friedel, Chiriches, Bentaleb, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Townsend, Soldado

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Amorebieta, Hangeland, Riise; Kvist, Sidwell, Parker; Dejagah, Rodallega, Kačaniklić

Subs: Stekelenburg, Karagounis, Kasami, Zverotić, Roberts, Woodrow, Bent

Manchester City 5-0 Fulham: Toure hat trick seals punishment for pair of Amorebieta penalties (video)

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The first was questionable but the second was clear.

Fulham defender Fernando Amorebieta conceded two penalties and earned himself a straight red card for the latter.

On the other end, Yaya Toure splashed both into the back of the net and added a stunning free-kick for his hat-trick, as Manchester City eased past a composed visiting side prone to devastating mistakes and earned themselves the pole position for the Premier League title.

Neither side had any good pops on the opposition goal in the first 15 minutes, a win for Fulham.  City had an early half-shout for handball against Steve Sidwell in the box but it was waved off.

However, the home side began to build, and James Milner took a 17th minute crack at goal but it was saved low by David Stockdale.

Fulham themselves had a good chance just five minutes later, as a Kieran Richardson free kick came blasting back off the wall.  It fell back to Fulham, who worked to Alex Kacaniklic with space in the box. His shot was blocked, but it came back to Richardson who rifled just wide of Joe Hart’s post.

Manchester City’s breakthrough came back on the other end.  On 25 minutes, a long ball for Alvaro Negredo in the box was going well over, but Fernando Amorebieta jumped with the City forward anyways and kicked him in the back of the leg. Negredo went down theatrically, but the kick is hard to argue with and John Moss awarded the penalty via his assistant referee who flagged furiously.

source: Getty Images
Yaya Toure was the man of the day, as his hat-trick put him on 20 goals for the year.

Yaya Toure slotted the penalty through easily past a wrong-footed David Stockdale and City had their lead despite a solid start from Fulham.

City poured on the attack, and despite a chance for Sascha Riether with a header on the counter, there was little respite for the visitors defending. With 9 minutes to go to the break, a shot by Negredo from a tight angle brought Stockdale out of his goal, and Amorebieta was called upon to head off the line and keep out a second.

Aleks Kolarov had a go from a tight angle just before halftime, but Stockdale tipped it to the crossbar and the metal did the rest to keep City from doubling up.

Following the break, the Whites knew their chances would come if they could just hold onto their defensive shape, but they failed to do so.

With David Silva free on the right edge of the box, Amorebieta clattered the City attacker with a two-footed challenge, an easy decision for the referee who pointed to the spot and produced a straight red card.

With Fulham down a man and two goals, there was no way back for the team sitting bottom of the table and Manchester City saw the game out as the rain began to pour down, symbolic of Fulham’s season.

With the red card, promising youngster Patrick Roberts was handed his Fulham debut, marking somewhat of a consolation for Fulham as he looked quality.

City nearly had a fourth in the 78th minute but Martin Demichelis’s header off a corner was saved off the line by Riether.

They would end up with another six minutes from full time with a howitzer from Fernandinho on a tight angle after he beats William Kvist with just one touch. Then Demichelis would add insult to injury with a fifth, a tap-in following a Stockdale save.

With Arsenal’s drubbing at Chelsea earlier in the day, the three points allows Manchester City to jump into the third spot, still two back of Liverpool and six off the Blues with a pair of games in hand.  The games in hand mean City are at the moment in the lead for the Premier League title race.

Fulham still have their win two weekends ago against Newcastle to hang onto, but pending other results today they could be in a very dangerous position bottom of the table.  They came into the match four points from safety and theoretically five with their poor goal differential.

Manchester City – Hart; Zabaleta, Lescott, Demichelis, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Toure (Rodwell 77′), Milner, Nasri (Jovetic 82′), Silva (Navas 68′); Negredo.

Goals: Toure 26′ (pen), 54′ (pen), 65′; Fernandinho 84′, Demichelis 88′

Fulham – Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Riise; Kačaniklić (Roberts 55′), Riether, Kvist, Sidwell, Richardson (Holtby 55′); Woodrow (Kasami 84′).

Discipline: Amorebieta straight red 53′

Clint Dempsey is barely even a noticable figure at Fulham

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It’s all going wrong for Clint Dempsey at the club level.

He was supposed to be moving upwards into the Champions League – his lifelong aspiration – when he moved to Tottenham. He hardly saw the field.

He was supposed to be escaping obscurity and moving home to help the Seattle Sounders make their deepest ever run in the MLS playoffs. They flopped down the stretch and meekly bowed out in the first round.

And now, he’s supposed to make a triumphant return to Craven Cottage, taking two months to turn things around, sharpen his game, and maybe save the club he once earned Player of the Year honors.

Except he hasn’t done any of those.

As Fulham dive further and further into the murky depths of the Premier League table, the biggest concern around the United States remains the form of their national team’s 30-year-old captain.

He hasn’t exactly played badly, but the problem is he hasn’t done anything – at all.

Since joining Fulham at the beginning of the new year, he’s played in four matches for the Premier League side – two in the league and two in the FA Cup. The Cottagers lost three of those (including a thumping by Jozy Altidore’s relegation-threatened Sunderland), scoring a mere two goals in those games. Dempsey was involved in neither.

The scariest part of it all is that the Texas native moves around the pitch like he’s running underwater.  He has no drive, no pace, and no confidence.

It hasn’t helped that Dempsey has been an afterthought in manager Rene Meulensteen’s on-field tactics, with most of the buildup played through the wings, with players like Alex Kacaniklic and Ashkan Dejagah the focus of Fulham’s attack today in the loss to Swansea.

But Dempsey has looked like a lost child when he is involved.  Take a look at his received passes in the Premier League losses to Swansea and Arsenal:

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He’s all over the field with no clear direction, and the attacking third is an absolute wasteland. Dempsey has barely sniffed the ball in the attacking third not just in those two matches but overall at Craven Cottage. It’s disheartening not just for USMNT fans but for Fulham supporters yearning for the Dempsey of old. Instead, they have a shell of his former self.

In addition to his lack of output, Dempsey’s fitness has been an issue.  In his three Premier League matches, the midfielder was substituted out twice, in the 71st minute and 79th minute, and on both occasions it was about 10 minutes too late.

Whether he can turn things around for the MLS season is one thing, but the question is quickly becoming can Clint turn things around for the World Cup? An essential piece of Jurgen Klinsmann’s national side, a Clint Dempsey in poor form would certainly go a long way to derail the United States’ chances for even escaping their group.

Hopefully, for Fulham’s sake, for the Seattle Sounders’ sake, for the national team’s sake, and for his own personal good, Clint Dempsey can turn things around, because his subpar club performances are becoming more than just an occurrence, they’re becoming a trend.