KC Stadium

René Meulensteen: Was there something in the tea?

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It’s been a month since Martin Jol was shown the door and René Meulensteen took sole charge of Fulham. In those six matches, Fulham have managed two wins, but they’ve also recorded four losses. They’ve also conceded 17 goals, with losses of 4-2 against Manchester City, 4-1 at Everton and, on Saturday, 6-0 at Hull City.

The sides went into the change rooms at halftime at the KC Stadium with no goals scored. The teams walked off with Hull buoyed by a dramatic win – and Fulham remain in the relegation zone, with a -22 goal difference.

Meulensteen is bemused. “I’m shocked. I don’t know if there was something in the tea. I did not see that coming and the players did not see that coming.”

Well, Steve Bruce might not be pleased to hear that his players were lifted by a bit of something in their halftime beverage (or maybe it was Fulham that were dampened by altered tea? They certainly looked slow to respond to Hull’s attacks). The Tigers’ manager didn’t take credit for his side’s incredible second half performance, instead bestowing praise on birthday boy Tom Huddlestone, saying, “I’ve seen some great individual performances but I’ve never witnessed something as outstanding as what he produced today. Everyone else fed off that and joined in.”

Meulensteen, however, did shoulder the burden of Fulham’s loss. The manager stated, “The Christmas period is a busy period and we have to make a few forced injuries but that is why you have a squad. It’s my responsibly to make those changes so I take full responsibility.”

It’s just a few days until the January transfer window opens, and the Cottagers have Clint Dempsey returning on loan for a couple months. But, while the American can likely help bolster Fulham’s rather anemic goal-scoring rate, what’s clear from Saturday’s performance is that the club are in desperate need of shoring up at the back. Meulensteen and new technical director Alan Curbishley best get busy at finding the right players to strengthen the Fulham defense.

They might want to keep a close eye on that halftime tea pot as well. Just in case.

Watch Live: Hull City vs. Manchester United (Lineups and Discuss)

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Manchester United hope to make it three in a row against a Hull side that are very difficult to beat at the KC Stadium (7:45 a.m. ET; watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Now that United have pulled within eight points of the top of the table, David Moyes must be sleeping a bit more peacefully at night. The manager is still without Robin van Persie and but at least Danny Welbeck, who scored the opener against West Ham last time out before leaving the match with a knee injury, won’t miss out as feared. It will be up to him and Wayne Rooney, the club’s current top scorer, to make sure the ball lands in the back of the net.

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And they’d be wise to not take Hull too lightly. The Tigers have lost just once at home, to (oddly enough) Crystal Palace. It’s three draws in succession for Steve Bruce’s men, who are well aware that stopping United’s momentum will be quite a feather in their cap. But Bruce is putting out the same lineup as Hull have used in their last four matches, a lineup that’s scored just two goals in that time.

Will Hull be able to do anything more than stop Manchester United? Or will the visitors coast to an easy win?

Lineups

Hull City: McGregor, Chester, Bruce, Davies, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Figueroa, Sagbo, Graham

Subs: Harper, Rosenior, Faye, McShane, Koren, Boyd, Fryatt

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Fletcher, Young, Rooney, Welbeck

Subs: Lindegaard, Vidic, Carrick, Fabio, Kagawa, Januzaj, Hernandez

Hull City 0-1 Crystal Palace: Palace finally get goal and, yes, a win (video)

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Hull City’s unbeaten record at the KC Stadium has ended. So has Crystal Palace’s long goalless drought. Palace finally scored their first goal in four matches, and recorded their first win in nine. They’re still at the bottom of the table, but maybe Tony Pulis won’t have such a difficult time as he may have first imagined?

At the beginning of the match, Palace forward Marouane Chamakh and Hull defender Paul McShane went head to head, causing them both to be wrapped up, zombie style, in giant bandages. This is being reported because it was possibly the most interesting thing that occurred in the first half.

Steve Bruce did his best to make sure his Hull side kept their unbeaten record at the KC Stadium, once again taking a conservative approach to the match — the sort of style that means no one, not even the fans, wins. The Tigers’ tactics very nearly worked: the hosts held on to a goalless draw until the 81st minute.

In fact, it seemed as though after Yannick Bolasie was sent off for a rough challenge on Jake Livermore, Hull were certain to come away with the win. But perhaps that — arguably harsh — red card was just the impetus Palace needed. Just three minutes later, the visitors had the ball in the back of the net. Hull let their guard slip and lost the ball, giving Cameron Jerome — on in the first half for the injured Chamakh — the chance to swoop in. Jerome slotted over to Barry Bannan, who only needed to tap in from close range.

Hull City: McGregor, Figueroa, Elmohamady, Davies, McShane, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd, Brady, Koren, Sagbo

Subs not used: Harper, Rosenior, Faye, Bruce, Meyler, Graham, Gedo

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan, Bolasie, Gayle, Chamakh (Jerome 36)

Subs not used: Alexander, Mariappa, Phillips, O’Keefe, Puncheon, Williams

Watch Live: Hull vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Discuss)

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Tony Pulis won’t be in the dugout today, but Crystal Palace will still be hoping to turn over a new leaf against Hull City at the KC Stadium (10 am ET, watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

The goalless draw against Everton last week represented something of a breakthrough for Palace. Sure, they still haven’t scored a goal in over 350 minutes, but at least they managed to grind out a point. The visitors will potentially be bolstered by the return of young Jonny Williams, although the midfielder will start this one on the bench. Caretaker manager Keith Millen has elected to pair Dwight Gayle with Marouane Chamakh in hopes of finally finding that elusive goal.

Hull, who could theoretically go 10th with a win today, are looking to keep their strong defensive record at home. They’ve conceded just once in five games at the KC Stadium, and have yet to lose. The Tigers’ impressive defense will be bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Allan McGregor, while perhaps their stingy scoring record will be improved now that winger Robbie Brady is back from from injury.

Lineups

Hull City Starting XI: McGregor, Figueroa, Elmohamady, Davies, McShane, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd, Brady, Koren, Sagbo

Subs: Harper, Rosenior, Faye, Bruce, Meyler, Graham, Gedo

Crystal Palace Starting XI: Speroni, Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Bannan, Bolasie, Gayle, Chamakh

Subs: Alexander, Mariappa, Phillips, O’Keefe, Puncheon, Williams, Jerome

Watch Live: Hull vs. Sunderland (Lineups and Discuss)

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Sunderland look to start digging themselves out of the bottom three Saturday when they visit Hull City at the KC Stadium(11 am ET, watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

The Black Cats will be buoyed by last week’s win in the Tyne-Wear Derby, when Fabio Borini snatched a last-minute winner to lift them above Newcastle. That’s Sunderland’s first win of the season, but not even a second consecutive victory could lift them from the drop zone. Still, Gus Poyet will do his best, setting aside many men brought in by Paolo Di Canio in favor of old Sunderland standbys such as Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley. As for Borini, he’s rewarded with a start, alongside Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore — Poyet’s going for broke with three strikers from the start.

Meanwhile, Steve Bruce has his own point to prove, with the club that sacked him nearly two years ago paying a visit. Hull City got off to a solid start in their first season back in the Premier League, but have picked up just one point from their last three matches. A win against the side that pushed Bruce out the door would boost both his credentials and his side’s standing in the table. But with only seven goals scored in ten matches, it’s tough to believe the Tigers will truly manage a mauling.

Hull City starting XI: Harper, Rosenior, Figueroa, Davies, McShane, Huddlestone, Livermore, Elmohamady, Boyd, Aluko, Sagbo

Subs: Jakupovic, Meyler, Koren, Brady, Proschwitz, Faye, Quinn

Sunderland starting XI: Westwood, Bardsley, Dossena, O’Shea, Cuellar, Cattermole, Colback, Larsson, Borini, Fletcher, Altidore

Subs: Mannone, Brown, Gardner, Johnson, Celustka, Giaccherini, Sung-Yueng