Howzat Mr Chairman?

Posted by Phil Mison

Matthew Lewis/Getty ImagesFulham's Pajtim Kasami celebrates his goal with manager Martin Jol.

"Sexy football" was the promise when Martin Jol returned to these shores in 2011. Fans had sporadic glimpses of it in his first season with Clint Dempsey firing from the hip, but for much of the last 15 months watching the Whites has been like waiting for the pandas at the zoo to get frisky. On Monday night Fulham finally turned it on. Crystal Palace were the unlucky victims on a night the boys in white found their mojo, scoring four goals away from Craven Cottage for the first time in nine years.

What made this 4-1 win particularly memorable was the sight of two stunning first-half strikes turning the game Fulham's way. Worth the admission money alone, Pajtim Kasami and Steve Sidwell both struck thunderous volleys as the Whites pulled out a come from behind win -- the first time Fulham have done that since downing Wigan in April 2012.

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New boys Palace felt the full force despite going ahead in the sixth minute. The clearance from the home side's second corner did not go very far, and when the ball was swung across from the left into a crowded box it was the home team's centre-back who climbed highest to head home.

Another poor goal for Fulham to concede, raising further doubts that this season Brede Hangeland does not look the player he was. Throughout the half Fulham's captain seemed off the pace, playing himself into trouble and guilty of poor decision making. At half-time he stayed in the dressing-room. It may have been tactical, but a niggling back is the more likely explanation.

By then the boys somehow found themselves 2-1 up, and Jol was suddenly giving a different team talk. Remember the mood as we fans journeyed over to South London? Pre-match talk still had Jol's neck on the chopping block and another damaging defeat following a slow start to the campaign would have really put the manager under the cosh. Especially as Palace are in even worse shape than the Whites down in the basement.

That early disquiet was transformed on 19 minutes by one of the greatest strikes you will ever see. Young Kasami will not claim a better goal in his career. It's been the talk of the media with comparisons made to Marco van Basten's volley for the Dutch in the 1998 Euro final win over the USSR (as they still were then). I was at that game, well, almost.

In fact I was working for ITV in Frankfurt and sat in the truck when Marco buried his volley. We had argued for an additional independent camera outside the standard feed from the host broadcaster. That volley came straight down the barrel of where our unilateral camera was sited.

But trust me, and I do not say this with my black and white hat on, Kasami's effort is far better. From the video analysis you can see him point and sprint from the centre circle, taking the ball on his chest at full speed after Sascha Riether delivers the perfectly weighted pass up the channel. Shadowed by the last man 'Pato' instinctively volleys a sensational shot across the keeper into the far top corner. Having just won his first senior cap, little wonder Juventus are keeping an eye on Fulham's rising star.

The wonder strike settled Fulham down. But with little to work with coming the way of Darren Bent, the 1-1 scoreline reflected the balance of play until Fulham won a soft free kick a minute from the break. When Bryan Ruiz's effort was charged down Sidders pulled out a peach of a right-foot volley from range to find the top corner. For a second time a blameless Julian Speroni was left grasping thin air. If Kasami's effort was simply inspired, this showed great technique by 'the ginger Iniesta'.

Ten minutes into the second half and Fulham were home and dry, leaving owner Shad Khan beaming from ear to ear, exchanging banter with the fans, and relishing his first away day experience. For this scribe, the two killer goals arriving directly from corners were the most pleasing aspect of the night. Ruiz took all corners from both flanks. All cleared the first defender. With Fernando Amorebieta using his physique to really unsettle defenders in a manner now it seems beyond Brede, Fulham got their rewards. Something seen all too rarely from set plays for some time now.

A neat glancing header from Dimitar Berbatov sneaks in at the post, then an unmarked Philippe Senderos executes a powerful shot at the back post to complete the scoring. Fulham at 1-4 sat back somewhat to see the game out, though Pato nearly put icing on the cake with another strike of high skill with the outside of his foot on the run.

While piling pressure on what is clearly a very weak Palace team, Jol was rightly glowing post match. Fulham climb to 14th, improve their goal difference, and can go to Southampton on Saturday in good heart after two back to back wins. So has a corner been turned?

As stated above, I saw clear evidence that work has been put in on the training ground. I still have reservations over how much Ruiz contributes to the side. He still fails to really take ownership of the midfield in Premier League games in the way he runs things for Costa Rica. Here was a chance to really shine against a team heading for relegation.

Kieran Richardson is an improvement on what went before, but still not the finished article in my book. I look for him to offer more offensively, and his positional play in keeping his man quiet is questionable.

Sidders brain tells him he's Gunther Netzer or Michel Platini, but he's not. I don't question his energy or commitment, but he can bomb forward and lose possession, leaving Fulham vulnerable to teams hitting on the break. There will be games coming up where Derek Boateng or Ashkan Dejagah may be a better option.

This was a fine all round performance, and Martin was quick to mention that to the press. The night's heroes were of course Kasami for his continued improvement and Dimitar Berbatov put in a real shift for the team (for the first time this season) and got rewarded with a goal. As my preview asked, time for Dimi to put himself "into the mix". Not only did he do that, he even seemed to be playing with a smile on his face.

But for my money, Senderos gets the bubbly for being a rock at the back, and popping up with a goal, only his second ever for the team. There's a calm, assured presence about Maarten Stekelenburg too, and it was good to see him back in goal.

Jol has been saying for weeks he had injuries and unfit players to contend with, along with the difficulty of getting everyone onto the same page system wise. Well he's bought himself some time with this fine win. Let's see where the club are in a month after a tricky run of games.

Can Bent and Berbatov play together? Absolutely. Darren may not get many touches in a game, but in the box he's still deadly. And he takes the spotlight away from Dimi. One saw that at Selhurst Park, and how the Bulgarian flourished.

Fulham must have read my preview as they really did "Storm the Palace".


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