Fulham vs. Newcastle United: 6 Things We Learned
A second-half strike from Ashkan Dejagah was enough to hand the west Londoners only their seventh win of the campaign, and their first under Felix Magath.
The Magpies had a huge penalty appeal turned down deep into stoppage time when Johnny Heitinga handled inside the box, but referee Howard Webb ignored the Toon’s claims.
As a result, the Cottagers held on for a priceless victory to close the gap on the teams above them to just a single point. Here we take a look at six things that were learned in the capital this weekend.
Fulham’s Luck May Have Turned at Just the Right Time
On another day, under the watchful eyes of another referee, Fulham could well have been denied victory after a huge penalty shot was ignored in stoppage time.
As it was, Howard Webb failed to punish Johnny Heitinga’s blatant handball, leaving Newcastle United fuming and handing all three points to Felix Magath’s men.
The German boss had accused his players of complacency ahead of Saturday’s fixture, telling the BBC that his squad “haven't realised that they are at the bottom of the table."
But following Webb’s late howler, the former Bayern Munich manager will be hoping the penny has dropped inside the Craven Cottage dressing room, and that their luck has finally turned in their battle to beat the drop.
Newcastle United Are Toothless in Attack Without Loic Remy
Without their talismanic striker and top scorer Loic Remy leading the line, Newcastle United rarely threatened Fulham on Saturday and looked a soft touch up front.
Despite linking the play well, Dutch forward Luuk De Jong had an afternoon to forget in front of goal, while an out-of-sorts Papiss Cisse continued to frustrate the Magpies' fans.
Cisse could and should have given the Toon the lead just seconds before Fulham’s matchwinner, but struck his shot straight at keeper David Stockdale, who had also denied him before the break.
The introduction of Shola Ameobi similarly failed to spark the visitors into life in the final third, and minus the injured Remy, Alan Pardew must be wondering where their goals will come from.
Cauley Woodrow Has a Big Future Ahead of Him
One forward who did shine at Craven Cottage was Fulham youngster Cauley Woodrow, who grabbed his chance to impress manager Felix Magath with both hands.
The former Luton Town teenager was handed his debut against Cardiff City last weekend and did enough to earn a starting place for the visit of Newcastle United on Saturday.
His workrate and determination stood out against the Magpies, and the 19-year-old was unlucky not to get on the score-sheet when his second-half effort was adjudged to be offside.
Every point will be crucial to Magath’s men if they are to stay in the top flight this season, and in Woodrow, they have unearthed a real talent who might just get them the goals they need.
Newcastle’s Lack of Creativity Is a Worry for Alan Pardew
There was an air of solidity about Newcastle United’s central midfield pairing against Fulham on Saturday—but very little else.
In Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita, the Magpies have two excellent technicians who protect their back four well and consistently break up play to good effect.
But such a platform is only useful when it's complimented by creativity further up the pitch, and at this moment in time, there is a gaping hole where Yohan Cabaye used to ply his trade.
Luuk De Jong may be useful in the air, but the on-loan forward did not possess the kind of artistic instincts required to open up Fulham in a game where inventiveness was sorely lacking.
Goal-Line Technology Is a Welcome Addition in the Premier League
When Johnny Heitinga’s shot bounced down off the crossbar and seemingly over the line on Saturday, the majority inside Craven Cottage assumed that Fulham had taken the lead.
All eyes quickly focused on referee Howard Webb, but evidence from the Decision Review System failed to materialise, and the game remained goalless.
To the naked eye, Heitinga’s effort had goal written all over it, but subsequent replays showed the whole of the ball had not crossed the line—albeit by a matter of millimeters.
The system took far too long to be introduced in the Premier League, and it’s instances such as the one on Saturday that underline the importance of such technology.
Fulham Must Build on Vital Victory
Saturday’s win over Newcastle United will mean nothing if Fulham fail to build on the victory, and manager Felix Magath is under no illusions about the battle ahead.
But his language after this weekend’s game suggests the 60-year-old saw enough from his team—especially in the second-half—to suggest relegation is not a foregone conclusion.
“I'm only thinking and working to stay in the league and I'm sure we can,” he told the BBC after picking up his first three points as Fulham boss. “It was a first win since New Year's Day and we are now on the way and I'm very hopeful.”