Fulham 1-1 Blackburn Rovers: Bobby Zamora cancels out Ruben Rochina opener to claim draw for Cottagers

First-half goals see both sides remain rooted in the bottom three after a game marred by an injury late on to Junior Hoilett following a collision with Mark Schwarzer
Fulham were forced to settle for a point at home to Blackburn Rovers after failing to capitalise on a second half onslaught.

Both goals came in the first half, as Bobby Zamora’s strike cancelled out an effort from Ruben Rochina that means both sides are still searching for their first win of the season.

But the game ended on a sour note as Blackburn's Junior Hoilett was stretchered off with a head injury after a last minute clash with Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer.

Both sides started with their new star signings from deadline day coming up against each other as Fulham’s record buy, Costa Rican frontman Bryan Ruiz, started as part of the Craven Cottage strike force against new Blackburn centre-back Scott Dann, who signed from Birmingham City.

The game started brightly with each side looking to press forward and get an early goal to calm their nerves, with both sitting in the bottom two places of the Premier League coming into the game, but neither could find that killer pass to open up the opposition defence.

Fulham were the first to have a chance on goal as Damien Duff raced down the right wing, before crossing in search of Steve Sidwell, but the midfielder could only direct his shot wide of Paul Robinson’s left-hand post.

On the 10 minute mark, the visitors were handed a golden opportunity to take the lead as Hoilett played a through ball towards Rochina, who was in the middle of the box, but instead of passing to the unmarked David Goodwillie on his right-hand side, the Spaniard watched his tame shot go into the arms of Schwarzer in the Fulham goal.

Goodwillie was the next to try his luck for Blackburn after a free kick from the left wing was not cleared properly by Martin Jol’s side and that allowed the Scotland international to attempt an overhead kick which ended up going over the bar.

Minutes later Fulham boss Jol was to suffer a blow as right-back Aaron Hughes was forced from the field of play with an injury and had to be replaced in the Cottagers back line by Stephen Kelly, who slotted in to the position vacated by Hughes.

Blackburn new boy Dann nearly marked his Rovers debut by giving away a goal, as his short back pass was seized upon by Zamora, but the Fulham striker could not get the ball under control, then he went down under a challenge from Michel Salgado, with referee Howard Webb penalising Zamora after he handled the ball while on the ground.

Then, just after the half hour mark Blackburn went into the lead as Hoilett raced on the left side, before finding the unmarked Rochina, who was just outside the box, and the former Barcelona youngster fired the ball beyond Schwarzer and into the top corner of the Fulham net.

Five minutes later Fulham were back on level terms as Danny Murphy found Zamora, who beat Gael Givet and stroked the ball with his left foot into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal for the equaliser.

Both sides continued to press forward for the reminder of the half, but they could not find the goal that would have given them the lead going into the half-time break.

Ruben strike | Rochina opens the scoring for Blackburn

The half-time interval saw each side make changes, as record signing Ruiz only lasted 45 minutes on his debut as he was replaced up front for Fulham by Moussa Dembele, while Jol’s opposite number Steve Kean was forced into an enforced change as Christopher Samba made way with a back injury to be replaced by Martin Olsson.

Blackburn were the first to have a shot on target within the first couple of minutes, as Goodwillie found Mauro Formica, who hit a powerful strike from outside the penalty area, which Schwarzer dealt with comfortably.

Kean was forced into making another change five minutes into the half, as David Dunn was replaced by Serbia international Radosav Petrovic in the centre of the Blackburn midfield.

The game continued to race from end to end, which each side pushing forward at will, but as had been the case during the majority of the first period, neither could find a way past the respective defences, with both Schwarzer and Robinson being relatively untroubled.

Just after the hour mark the home side started to gain a stranglehold on proceedings, with a series of corners rifled in from the left hand side by John Arne Riise, but on each occasion they failed to make Robinson work by getting a shot on target.

The home side had a golden opportunity to go into the lead, as Clint Dempsey found Murphy, who slipped by his marker on the left side of the penalty area and the former Liverpool midfielder had a shot which was beaten away to safety by Robinson.

As a show of intent from Jol, who wanted to claim all three points, he decided to take left-back Riise off and replaced him with Andy Johnson to make a three-man frontline for the Cottagers as they looked to come out of the bottom three in the league.

That substitution nearly paid dividends within a minute as the ball burst through to Johnson inside the box, but he ran into fellow striker Zamora, then was forced to go wide, losing the chance to get the lead.

Blackburn could have stole all three points with five minutes to go, as they broke on the counterattack, with Hoilett finding Goodwillie, who rushed down the left wing, before cutting inside and rather than looking to play the ball into the middle, he decided to go for the bottom corner, but unfortunately for the striker the ball went wide of Schwarzer’s right-hand post.

As the game entered injury time Fulham could have gone in front as Dempsey got the ball just outside the area, but his long range strike was beaten away by Robinson for a corner to the home side.

A minute later Fulham were lucky not to be down to 10 men as Schwarzer raced out to a long ball and collided with Hoilett on the edge of the area. The Australian keeper was booked, but unfortunately for the Blackburn frontman, he was stretchered off from the field with a serious looking injury.

That was to be the last incident of the game as both sides were forced to settle for a point which means that they remain in the bottom three of the Premier League.