New boy hits injury time winner after horror injury to star striker...Fulham grabbed their first win of the season and continued their unbeaten start in the Premier League as they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 at Craven Cottage. Jelle Van Damme's goal had put the visitors ahead but two strikes from Moussa Dembele, including an injury time free-kick winner, gave Fulham the victory after their star striker Bobby Zamora was stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle.
Mick McCarthy made just one change to the team that has started the season in fine form and which at the start of this match found itself unbeaten and in the top half of the table. Michael Mancienne, on his third loan spell from Chelsea, slotted into the Wolves defence while David Jones was dropped to the bench. There was also a place amongst the substitutes for new loan singing Marcus Bent, a new recruit from Birmingham City.
Fulham meanwhile have also made an unbeaten start to the season with three draws and were able to call upon the services of their star striker Zamora who was able to shake off a thigh injury, but found themselves without winger Damien Duff who was ruled out with a calf injury. Mark Schwarzer, the subject of much transfer speculation linking him with a move to Arsenal during the recent window, also returned to the Cottagers' side having recovered from a back injury.
The match began brightly with Fulham having plenty of early possession and more of the play and the Cottagers thought they should have had a penalty after seven minutes when Simon Davies was felled whilst through on goal. Phil Dowd waved away the Londoners' appeals when it seemed that he had been clearly fouled.
Despite Fulham's lively start it was Wolves that found themselves ahead after just nine minutes. Kevin Doyle's showed some fine hold-up play despite the attention of the burly Brede Hangeland and struck a cross in from deep. John Pantsil could comfortably have cleared the ball but allowed it to bounce across his body just yards from his own goal. Jelle Van Damme could hardly believe his luck as he found himself with the opportunity to finish from five yards out at the far post and the former Southampton man finished with aplomb.
Fulham responded in a fairly lively manner and Zamora, having only this week signed a new contract at the London side, had the oportunity to level things with a free kick from 20 yards but came closer to finding the Thames than the back of the Wolves net.
The match soon settled into a more sedate pace thereafter, punctuated only by a further couple of errors from the hapless Pantsil and a yellow card for Mancienne on 22 minutes for pulling Clint Dempsey's shirt.
Things got worse for Fulham after 26 minutes when an innocuous and seemingly well timed challenge by Karl Henry saw Zamora go down on his ankle, which appeared to snap under the weight. The England man immediately signalled to the bench whilst clearly in a great deal of pain. The former Brighton striker was stretchered off whilst on oxygen, much to the concern of Mark Hughes and Fulham fans, to be replaced by Zoltan Gera.
Fulham appeared to regroup well after Zamora's unfortunate injury and Pantsil could have redeemed his error-strewn start to the match when he unleashed a shot from 25 yards just after the half hour mark. The Ghanaian has never scored in English football, and although his effort fizzed only just over Marcus Hahnemann's bar, he was unable to break his five-year long scoring duck.
Indeed Pantsil's half to forget got worse when he was booked on 41 minutes for hauling back Kevin Doyle whose clever run perplexed the Fulham full-back. And not content with his yellow card, Pantsil compounded his error when he lost his marker again to allow calamity to ensue in the Cottagers' box. Despite his comedy defending, however, Pantsil was eventually able to clear the ball away for a corner.
The half ended with Fulham pressing and Dempsey had a late difficult chance from a Pantsil cross but the Cottagers couldn't quite find the breakthrough to cancel out Wolves' lead. Phil Dowd blew the half-time whistle with the visitors still ahead, but not before more Pantsil ineptitude, who contrived to mess up a simple header back to gift Mick McCarthy's side a late corner. Despite looking defensively shaky Fulham may have felt justifiably aggrieved to be a goal down given that Wolves had just one shot in the entire half.
Fulham boss Hughes was clearly not impressed with Pantsil's first half contribution and hauled the full-back off at half-time, much to the disappointment of Wolves fans.
The second half began in a scappy manner but Fulham would not have minded when they found an equaliser just two minutes into the half. Gera broke down the left flank and Wolves failed to clear his cross which worked its way out to Dembele on the edge of the Wolves area. The recent recruit switched the ball onto his left foot and finished well from 15 yards to take his side level.
Fulham continued in the same vein after the equalising goal with a series of corners. Gera hooked over a simple chance from eight yards after a Hughes knockdown from one set piece before Dempsey subsequently saw the goal gaping but had the ball taken off his head by Henry.
The Cottagers had the wind in their sails and Dembele clearly also had his tail up after his first Fulham goal. The Belgian's run inside saw him strike an effort from 18 yards after 53 minutes, but his shot was straight at Hahnemann in the Wolves goal.
There was another penalty appeal from the Londoners just four minutes later as Davies was put through on goal. The Welshman rounded Hahnemann and appeared to be felled but Dowd again waved away Fulham's appeals.
Things could have got worse for Fulham shortly after as Kevin Doyle's back post header at the other end from a free-kick severely tested Mark Schwarzer. However the wantaway keeper was able to keep out the Irishman, who departed the field shortly after to be replaced by David Jones.
Wolves' poor second half showing was gifting Hughes' team opportunity after opportunity as first Davies and then Dembele had chances, but neither could fire their team ahead.
Matt Jarvis, having a decent game for Wolves, nearly manufactured a goal from nothing with just over 20 minutes left when his cross from the right seemed to be creeping into Schwarzer's far post. But the Australian was able to get back and tip the ball over for a corner, which amounted to nothing.
Jarvis was again at the centre of things as the game entered the last quarter of an hour, as he skipped inside and curled a shot goalwards but saw his effort go comfortably over the bar.
The match entered the last 10 minutes with Fulham still in the ascendancy but with Wolves looking less precarious than they had earlier in the half. The Cottagers did, however, continue to push and probe looking for a winner as Wolves were limited to hitting back on the break.
Mark Hughes sent on Eddie Johnson to add some pace to his attack late on and it was a foul on the American in injury time which led to a second yellow card of the day for Christophe Berra who was given his marching orders having been booked earlier in the half for a similarly cynical foul on Dembele.
From the free-kick Dembele struck an effort which crept under the wall and despite not being struck with a great deal of power found the corner of the Wolves goal. The injury time winner was richly deserved after the home side's thorough dominance but Mark Hughes will have been tempered somewhat by the injury that will keep the talismanic Zamora out for some time.