Monday, 21 October 2013

Crystal Palace 1-4 Fulham

Two wonder strikes and two corners undid Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park as Fulham came from behind to inflict a 4-1 defeat on their fellow strugglers.

Pajtim Kasami will be on all tomorrow's back pages, as the newly capped Swiss international all but dared his national coach Otmar Hitzfeld not to pick him for the World Cup Finals next summer.

His wonderful volleyed equaliser will surely be goal of the season by the time he makes his inevitable trip to Brazil, and it was a strike that lit Fulham's blue touchpaper right when they needed it most.

Ian Holloway's Palace side had made the more promising start, a fact underlined when Adrian Mariappa headed in from a looping and deflected Jason Puncheon cross in the seventh minute.

Yet for all Palace's early endeavour, they lacked the composure and quality on the ball to control the match, and it wasn't long before Fulham found their range.

Martin Jol's side had provided a somewhat limp opening quarter of an hour, but when Kasami chested down a long pass from Sascha Riether and expertly volleyed past Julian Speroni, Fulham were in dreamland, with the under pressure Jol thanking his lucky stars that owner Shahid Khan had picked this match to show his face.

The match petered out for a time, as both sets of fans got their breath back after what they had seen. There was one last sucker punch before the break however, as Steven Sidwell pounced on a blocked free-kick to volley a goal that in any other match would have been the pick of the bunch.

Two of the best goals Fulham will score this season had left Palace punch drunk at the break, and the Cottagers' superiority was confirmed in the second half.

Darren Bent almost made it three soon after the teams switched sides, but Speroni's outstretched leg merely delayed the inevitable. From the resulting corner, Dimitar Berbatov outmuscled Palace's earlier hero Marriapa to glance home Fulham's third of the night.

Five minutes later, another right-hand corner found Philippe Senderos at the back post, and Speroni's best attempts could not stop his volley from creeping over the line.

While Palace could not really be faulted in the first half - Fulham's two goals the definition of unstoppable - Holloway would have been disappointed with his side's lack of organisation at set pieces, as any hopes of remaining competitive in the game subsided.

To the Eagles' credit, they embodied the same never-say-die spirit of their manager, and Dwight Gayle had a consolation goal dubiously ruled offside midway through the second half.

In the end however, it was Kasami who nearly made it 5-1 as he channeled his undoubted confidence into an ambitious outside-of-the-left-boot shot, which Speroni did well to tip wide.

Dean Moxey nearly got in on the act at the other end with a good long-range effort, but the damage was already done.

Jol and Fulham may look back on Kasami's outrageous moment of brilliance as the moment that turned their season around. The Dutchman has been feeling the heat this year as form has dipped, but he still possesses a squad capable of brilliance. He must hope Scott Parker's return can add some brawn to a side occasionally lacking in a solid engine room.

For Palace, a seventh defeat in eight league games spells danger. Holloway was much-maligned by some observers for his gung-ho style at Blackpool, but a more conservative approach at Palace with an admittedly inferior squad looks like resulting in the same outcome of relegation, although in today's panic culture, he sadly may not even survive to see the drop.

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