The Cottagers leapfrog their opponents in the league as they end their run of four successive defeats.Two early goals from Fulham were enough to beat Norwich 2-1 as the London club climbed to 10th place in the Premier League table.
A tap-in by Clint Dempsey two minutes in and a wonderful curling effort from Damien Duff were enough for the Cottagers despite Aaron Wilbraham’s late strike in the second half.
The last time these two teams met at Craven Cottage in 2005, the East Anglian side was relegated to the Championship after a 6-0 thrashing. However, this season’s surprise package are just one point from the important 40-point threshold, which would seemingly all but guarantee the team another season in the top flight.
Martin Jol has made two changes to the squad that was denied a penalty in the dying moments of its 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on Monday night. The Fulham player at the center of the incident, Danny Murphy, startedin favor Kerim Frei and Brian Ruiz began upfront with Pavel Pogrebnyak, with the Cottagers looking to prevent a run of four straight league defeats.
Norwich had to replace top-scorer Grant Holt, who was both hero and villain in the club's last match over Wolves, but also got sent off for two yellow card offenses, with Steve Morison replacing the suspended striker. On loan right back Kyle Naughton started and Ryan Bennett was handed his debut, while Andrew Surman returned to the Canaries’ midfield.
The match at Craven Cottage got off to a quick start with the home side gaining a lead through Dempsey in just the second minute of play. Without hardly touching the ball in the opening minute, the ball broke free to Ruiz, who cut back onto his left foot and shot. John Ruddy was able to parry but the ball fell kindly to Dempsey, who tapped it into the net.
Norwich then had a good spell of pressure, trying to respond quickly to the early goal. There was some good interlinking play between Wesley Hoolahan and Jonny Howson, who laid the ball off to Morison, whose cross as wayward.
The visitors continued to retain possession and move the ball about. When completely against the run of play, Fulham added to its lead. Dempsey found the ball midway through the oppositions half, and played a perfectly weighted through ball into the path of Duff along the right channel. He was able to curl the ball past the oncoming Norwich goalkeeper.
From this moment on the Canaries were facing an uphill battle and although they were still passing the ball well. With their midfield creating some nice triangles, they were unable to create anything substantial.
Just after the half-hour mark the hosts threatened again after some good play around the 18-yard box, the ball making its way to Duff, who crossed towards the back post. Both Pogrebnyak and Dempsey went for it, getting in each other’s way with the American heading the ball over.
With 37 minutes played, Jonny Howson spurned his side’s best chance of the half to get back into the game. Morison was tackled in the box, where the broke to Surman and found Howson who chested the ball down and poked his shot wide.
The Cottagers then came close to extending their lead with a third. More excellent play from Dembele and Dempsey saw the former find the latter with an intricate pass in the box, when the USA international’s shot across goal hit the post. The rebound off the woodwork found the Belgian who’s shot was blocked off the line by debutant Bennett.
Norwich had one last chance before the break with a free kick that was defended well, but found its way to Surman on the edge of the box. His shot was well wide of the goal.
A first half packed full of action came to an end at Craven Cottage with the hosts looking comfortable, and the visitors appeared to have missed their talismanic captain upfront.
Soon into the second half it was the Fulham substitute Alexander Kacanikilic who made the first impact, with a delightful effort from outside the box. But the crossbar came to the visitors rescue.
Norwich then had a double chance, with Hoolahan cutting on to his left in the box and getting his shot away. Schwarzer couldn’t hold onto the ball, but was able to block the rebound from the oncoming Surman and concede a corner.
In the 63rd minute, another pin-point through ball found fullback Stephen Kelly, who was surging into the box, but Bennett’s last ditch tackle helped his team once more. Moments later opposite fullback John Arne Riise driving into the box and shooting hard across the box but the Norwich keeper was equal to it.
With 15 minutes left, Wilbraham was able to peg one back for Norwich with cross that was deflected into the goal by the Fulham keeper. The 32-year-old found the ball in the box and was able to get his shot away, giving his side a late chance to gain something from the match.
Despite some late pressure to gain the equaliser, the hosts defended well to hold on to all three points and end their losing run.