Fulham 1 Norwich City 0
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Neil Adams’ first match in charge of Norwich City ended in a 1-0 Premier League defeat to bogey club Fulham as the Cottagers moved within two points of the Canaries in the survival scrap.
Hugo Rodallega slotted Lewis Holtby’s 40th minute free kick but he hosts’ were indebted to a world class stop from David Stockdale to deny Ricky van Wolfswinkel before the breakthrough. Robert Snodgrass had also struck the bar with a free kick in a vibrant opening from Adams’ much-changed side but City’s Craven Cottage curse continues with Norwich now having failed to win by the Thames since 1986.
Adams signalled his intent with six changes to the line up that lost 1-0 to West Brom which triggered the end of Chris Hughton’s tenure. Russell Martin switched inside to form a new central defensive partnership alongside the recalled Michael Turner.
Steven Whittaker came in at right-back with no place in the matchday squad for either Seb Bassong or Joseph Yobo. Leroy Fer was also included after returning to training this week following a hamstring injury. Bradley Johnson came back in along with Nathan Redmond as Alex Tettey and Wes Hoolahan dropped to the bench and Johan Elmander was another notable omission from the squad.
Adams also recalled van Wolfswinkel with Gary Hooper kept in reserve and there was a place on the bench for Josh Murphy, one of Adams’ FA Cup Youth winning starlets, and Spanish full-back Javier Garrido.
Fulham’s Felix Magath made one change from the team that beat Aston Villa at Villa Park as match-winner Rodallega replaced Cauley Woodrow. Redmond was deployed right up top alongside van Wolfswinkel in the early sparring with Snodgrass the tip of a diamond and Johnson anchoring the base.
Pajtim Kasami tried his luck from 20 yards but John Ruddy was able to watch the ball drift wide. Redmond then escaped down the right but Stockdale pawed behind.
Martin Olsson raced onto Johnson throughball but Brede Hangeland cleared his lines before Howson’s volley deflected behind off Jonny Heitinga. Steve Sidwell then over-hit his cross as the frantic pace showed no sign of abating in the first 10 minutes.
Ruddy then went full length but Rodallega’s angled strike flew a yard wide after Kasami had beaten Turner to the flick on.
Rodallega failed to anticipate Steve Sidwell’s touch eight yards out with City’s central defence momentarily breached in the 19th minute.
Johnson then made a timely intervention to send Kasami’s hit spiralling over Ruddy’s bar before the visitors cleared their lines. Ruddy spilled Kieran Richardson’s corner but the City keeper was relieved to see the ball squirm across his six yard box.
Stockdale denied van Wolfswinkel in the 28th minute with a world class one-handed save to divert the Dutchman’s volley six yards out from Martin Olsson’s driven cross. Stockdale’s reactions proved just as sharp to keep out Fer’s header before Howson poked wide.
Heitinga then hauled down Fer, but it was the midfielder who was cautioned by referee Dean for attempting to take a quick free kick and roll the ball into the empty net. Snodgrass stepped up but drilled against the top of Stockdale’s bar.
Fulham broke through in the midst of City’s attacking onslaught five minutes before the interval when the unmarked Rodallega swept home Holtby’s vicious free kick after Whittaker had been booked for hauling down Richardson. Fer tried to trigger an instant riposte but Sidwell threw his way in front of the strike.
Olsson was dumped to the ground by Kasami in the first minute of added on time with the Swede clearly in pain with the damaged shoulder he had been nursing for weeks but the full back was able to continue after treatment.
Redmond burst down the right but his cross was claimed by Stockdale with Snodgrass in close attendance. Snodgrass and Fer then combined in a confined space centrally but Stockdale gathered Fer’s first time hit.
Olsson then shovelled Rodallega’s close range header behind with City seemingly unable to track the Colombian striker in the penalty box.
Snodgrass was then only denied by a desperate lunging challenge from Hangeland six yards out after Johnson spotted Olsson’s overlapping run inside the dozing Sidwell.
Fulham’s second half arrival Askhan Dejagah whipped in a cross Rodallega headed over the top on the run 14 yards out.
Johnson’s slip deep in the Fulham half looked costly as Sidwell led a counter with team mates steaming up in support but Turner got back to diver the ball towards Ruddy.
Adams introduced Hoolahan for the visibly tiring Fer in the 68th minute but Fulham responded with Scott Parker replacing Holtby. The former England man was straight into the action when he dragged wide after Sascha Riether had led the breakout.
Hooper then swivelled onto Hoolahan’s threaded pass but Fernando Amorebieta’s touch diverted the ball over before Rodallega denied Turner a certain equaliser from the corner when he headed the centre back’s header behind.
Fulham were now operating on the counter and Ruddy used his lower body to keep out a swinging hit from Sidwell.
Adams played his last card with Murphy replacing Howson in the 79th minute as City strived to turn their territorial dominance into a late leveller. The fearless youngster drove inside only to guide a right-footed curling effort a couple of yards wide.
Dejagah enticed Hoolahan into a foul to waste a few extra seconds on the edge of the Norwich box but the substitute slammed the free kick into the visitors’ wall.
Murphy backed up Riether to force a corner in the final minute of normal time but Johnson was crowded out and Snodgrass had to take evasive action to haul down Richardson to earn a third Norwich yellow card. Things could have got even worse for Adams’ men when Dejagah skied over the bar with just Ruddy to beat deep in stoppage time.
• Fulham: Stockdale, Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta, Richardson, Kasami (Dejagah 58), Riether, Diarra (Kvist 84), Sidwell, Holtby (Parker 68), Rodallega. Subs (not used): Stekelenburg, Riise, Roberts, Bent.
• Goal: Rodallega (40)
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Fer (Hoolahan 68), Howson (Josh Murphy 79), Snodgrass, Redmond, van Wolfswinkel (Hooper 60). Subs (not used): Bunn, Bennett, Garrido, Tettey.
• Bookings: Fer (ungentlemanly conduct 32); Whittaker (foul on Richardson, 39); Snodgrass (foul on Richardson, 90).
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
• Attendance: 25,028