It’s still a bit odd to see the competitive football season starting in June, but at least Fulham have hit the ground running. Last week’s game wasn’t on proper TV in the UK, and the feed that the ‘Official’ facebook group recommended didn’t seem to work, but after about 20 minutes I did find a feed that showed live pictures from Craven Cottage. One camera angle for most of the match (high up on the Hammy End) and stilted tedious commentary, but it was good enough to see what was going on.
While NSI are a team from a town of 4,000 people, made up of a few foreign players and local semi-pros, and they’ve never won a game in Europe (or scored more than one goal in a two-legged European tie), they are in the middle of their domestic season so should be all match-fit. Whereas Fulham may be a Premiership side, they are one that has spent a few weeks recovering from a long season and which has just seen a change of manager. Three players were unavailable as well – Dempsey and Salcido only just played in the 2011 Gold Cup (where Salcido’s Mexico beat Dempsey’s USA 4-2) and Dembele is out with injury – and several players have been released at the end of their contracts, including Paintsil, Gera and Kamara. So Jol was dead on to enforce the message not to under-estimate the Faroese team.
While it wasn’t a spectacular game, it was a well worked and efficient 3-0 win. NSI Runavik made it hard to play the ball forward, and contained the Whites for most of the first half, clearly hoping to make something happen on the break. But Fulham kept up the probing forward play and didn’t get frustrated. Duff scored the first goal from the edge of the box after Davies and Zamora had got the ball behind the defence.
During the second half, the visitors clearly did tire and were clumsy in possession, allowing Fulham to dominate further. It wasn’t exactly a rout, more of a series of patiently set up attacks. A foul on Davies let to a penalty that Danny Murphy calmly sent into the bottom corner. Zamora set up the third goal, putting the ball into AJ’s path for a sweet shot under the keeper.
Most of the Fulham line-up were fairly regular players last season, although Briggs was in left-back covering for Salcido. Jol took the opportunity to put Sidwell, Riise and Dalla Valla out as subs late on, all of them having been unused since they joined the club.
On Thursday, Jol can rest more of the first string and try out some of the younger and fringe players, with a three-goal cushion and the ability to take seven subs. It will be interesting to see who does play and how they do – providing, of course, that I can find any feed of the game on line.
(I did write this the day after the game, but forgot to post it)