Smash and grab at Swansea

Posted by Phil Mison

Alexander Kacaniklic puts Fulham into the lead away at SwanseaGettyImagesAlexander Kacaniklic puts Fulham into the lead away at Swansea

I hope the Fulham team bus slipped safely across the Welsh border under cover of darkness after the side pulled off an outrageous 0-3 last day win over League Cup winners Swansea. Plundering all three points at the aptly named Liberty Stadium saw Fulham claim their first win in eight, hoisting the Cottagers to a final league position of 12th and leaving Mohammed al Fayed's club laughing all the way to the bank.

- Report: Swansea 0-3 Fulham

The difference between winning or losing game 38 of our EPL season, and dropping four places had we lost to end up 16th, amounted to a disparity of £3 million pounds in performance pay-out. While nobody who follows the Whites would claim we'd had a particularly memorable season, in the crazy world of the cash rich Premier League our prize for coming home 12th of 20 is £6.8 million pounds.

As you can see, to a small outfit like Fulham, that 4th away win of the season really mattered!

I'm still trying to make sense of how it came about, because we were 2nd best to Michael Laudrup's easy on the eye Swansea in every respect except for where it mattered - in front of goal. As Laudrup himself said, "We could have had four in the first twenty minutes of the 2nd half. After that we paid the penalty for our lack of finishing and got punished on the break." Jol's blunt verdict? "We won ugly."

That Swansea failed to penetrate when our backs were to the wall, no praise is high enough for another impeccable display from our veteran keeper.

If that really is to be Mark Schwartzer's final game in goal for Fulham, what a fitting way to go out. A clean sheet and man of the match from the unflappable Aussie.

I had some doubts during the mid-winter dip but over the past four months he has convinced me he has another season in him. With all the talk of a financial squeeze on transfers I fail to see the logic in burning big money on a position that is currently in no way a weakness. Fulham have far bigger issues to resolve where precious resources can be more effectively directed. So what if Mark's agent wants a clause inserted that states if fit the big Aussie must be a starter? More than a few other teams in the EPL would be happy to make him their number one.

With Fernando Amorebieta and Brede Hangeland shielding him next season and a new left-back to complement Sascha Riether, Fulham will be well on the way to restoring the ‘Thames Barrier,’ especially if we locate a defensive midfielder of quality. 60 goals conceded this season is relegation form!

Of the two ball winners we saw today, I thought Emmanuel Frimpong showed up better than Eyong Enoh. He has some creativity about him and does not dive in quite as rashly as the Cameroonian (who bears something of the Sidwell scare factor in his over-eager approach to closing players down).

Alex Kacaniklic could well have had a deserved hat-trick from this one. He carried so much more threat plying a narrower channel down the middle. This had him more involved with play than we’ve seen before, as Alex showed a lively intelligence and good link-up play. Perhaps the space between Swansea’s centre backs gave him the room to work his magic, but here were hints of his true potential and value for next season. His late chip against the bar deserved better, his cool finish for our opener in stark contrast to the big opportunity to strike with our first attack spurned by Bryan Ruiz’s indecision in the box. The man continues to flatter to deceive.

Makes you wonder how his development has been hindered by Jol’s handling of the young Swede this season. He was only recalled from Burnley at Easter because Ashkan Dejagah required ankle surgery and was one of the early casualties of Jol’s revolving door policy on team selection as the Dutchman struggled to strike a winning formula.

With Kakaniklic brought in from the cold, so Dimitar Berbatov also prospered. An additional factor as the game got turned on its head was the introduction of Giorgos Karagounis from the bench. The Greek’s legs may have gone, but there’s nothing wrong with his footballing brain. He was instrumental in the build-up to goals two and three in a way reminiscent of Danny Murphy in his prime.

Here was an example of Jol getting it wrong all season. Where he was playing the Greek maestro for 70 minutes until his lungs gave out, Karagounis should have been used as the impact sub rather than a starter for many of our games. His wily old head would surely have benefited the team in games where the tide was turning against us.

I guess that’s all academic now. The Greek is on his way we know, but a 3-0 away win makes for the prefect way to sign off. Thanks for your spirit and contribution!

Our season then ends on a high note, just the way it began. What a shame about so much of the dross that came in between. Whoever would have thought Norwich would end up above us in the table? As Fulham away wins by a comfortable three goal margin come along but rarely, I shall not spoil the mood on this final weekend by carping over certain deficiencies in our display.

If you were at the game you will know only too well how we rode our luck. The appallingly brief edit on MOTD served up a somewhat slanted snapshot of the game, and naturally Fulham received not a hint of worthwhile analysis from the ‘pundits.’ Best news of the week? Hansen to retire next season. Long overdue!

Bravo boys for sending us off for the summer with a smile on our faces, and a hint that the future when we return in August should be a whole lot brighter.

12th in the English Premier League and 15 goals from your main man? After the upheavals of last autumn and fielding the oldest side in the league I can just about live with that. COYW!!!


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