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  • 30 October 2010
  • • 15:00
  • • Craven Cottage, London
  • Referee: M. Atkinson
  • • Attendance: 25448
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Fulham 2-0 Wigan Athletic: Clint Dempsey enjoys his deuce as Cottagers romp to comfortable win

Fulham 2-0 Wigan Athletic: Clint Dempsey enjoys his deuce as Cottagers romp to comfortable win

Latics have no answer for American's early salvo

Two fine first half goals from Clint Dempsey — one a header, one a first-time volley — were enough to see Fulham to an important 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic at Craven Cottage.

Mark Hughes never looked in danger of missing out on all three points after Dempsey put his side ahead on the half-hour mark, and once the American's volley found the net on the stroke of half-time the Cottagers were happy to cruise to victory.

It was the hosts that started the brighter, with a goalmouth scramble following a corner poorly dealt with by Wigan shot-stopper Ali Al Habsi almost resulting in a goal and, from the next set-piece opportunity, defender Brede Hangeland heading over from a well-placed cross.

Wigan occasionally threatened on the break, but it was the hosts who were making the majority of the running and, after Moussa Dembele was fouled on the edge of the box but was denied a free-kick, the home side only had a speculative effort from Zoltan Gera and an aimless cross (when perhaps he should have shot) from Simon Davies to show for their superiority.

Fulham then did win a free-kick, after Carlos Salcido's incisive run resulted in a messy tackle on the edge of the box. But from the advantageous position Gera could only curl his attempt high and wide of an unworried Al Habsi.

At the other end, Wigan then gave a reminder of their threat as Charles N'Zogbia embarked on a clever run that ended with a shot from an acute angle that only narrowly over Mark Schwarzer's crossbar.

The Frenchman was far and away his side's liveliest player in the first half-hour, picking himself up after a heavy (but fair) challenge from Carlos Salcido to force Schwarzer into a save with a shot from 20 yards after good work from Mohamed Diame.

But, just as the visitors were beginning to grow in confidence, Fulham found themselves ahead. It was Gera who was the architect of the piece, taking the ball in the centre of midfield and, spotting the run of Salcido into acres of space down the left, passing it out to the onrushing Mexican. From there the full-back had time to cut-in, and then provide a pinpoint pass that Dempsey nodded beyond Al Habsi with aplomb.

From there until the end of the first half Fulham weren't rampant, but they weren't far short. Wigan had no answer for their possession and territory, but did manage to escape going further behind. Their own attempts on goal were similarly desperate, with N'Zogbia again the closest with a free-kick from all of 40 yards that Schwarzer watched keenly over his bar.

Fulham then began turning the screw before half-time. A fine team move — started by Salcido's clever lofted ball, but progressed by Simon Davies and Dembele — saw Gera strike a first time curler only just around the post, before another great cross from Salcido and lofted header from Dempsey forced a magnificent save from the Omani goalkeeper.

But just seconds later, the home side doubled their advantage. Again it was Dempsey with the finish, a technically proficient spinning volley that left Al Habsi clutching at thin air. It was Chris Baird that provided the cross, and it allowed the Cottagers to make their way in at half-time comfortably ahead.

Aware that his side were worryingly lacking a cutting edge, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez made a change at half-time, bringing on the midfielder Jordi Gomez for the ineffective Franco Di Santo. But it was again Fulham who made the early running, however, with Moussa Dembele opening the second half with a dangerous strike that was deflected wide.

After that the game seemed to find a balance, with Martinez's tactical change — moving Hugo Rodallega through the centre while playing N'Zogbia and Gomez from the flanks — seeming to cause Fulham a few more issues in defence. Meanwhile the visitors had shored things up at the back, ensuring the likes of Dembele and Dempsey couldn't quite find the final ball they were looking for.

Rodallega, having been virtually non-existent in the first half, then began to grow in influence, firing Wigan's first effort of note since early in the game well wide of Schwarzer's goal.

Yet their clear-cut chances were few and far between, with both defences wising up to the threats of their opposite number. Mohamed Diame flashed wide perhaps his side's best chance, before reverting to defensive duties and helping to clear a number of crosses and corners as Fulham went aerial for their third effort.

Gera eventually tested Al Habsi with a stinging 25 yard drive, which the keeper could only parry away into the path of Dembele — but the Belgian's effort was blocked by a lunging Caldwell and danger averted.

At the other end Tom Cleverley forced Schwarzer into a rare save with a clipped effort after good work from substitute Victor Moses. With time running out, Wigan were risking more in the hope of finding away back into the game.

As the game meandered to a conclusion, there was more cause for cheer from the Craven Cottage crowd as Andy Johnson made his return to competitive action after a long lay-off. The former Crystal Palace man replaced Simon Davies, and nearly made an immediate impact as he was brought down in the box by Antolin Alcaraz. Unfortunately for he and Fulham, the linesman had already flagged for offside.

Shortly afterwards, having got himself involved in a little spat with Hendry Thomas, Johnson almost had another penalty as he was bundled over by the enforcer inside the six-yard box. But referee Andre Marriner was having none of it.

Johnson continued to impress in his brief cameo, but the rest of his team had long settled for the scoreline and all three points, and Marriner's final whistle brought down the curtain on a comfortable victory for the home side.


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