By Tom Sizeland
Clint Dempsey scored a hat-trick, as Fulham overcame a dreary first half performance to send Newcastle crashing to defeat.
Danny Guthrie opened the scoring on the 43rd minute, with a fantastic strike on the edge of the penalty box. A controversial penalty allowed Danny Murphy to level the game, but a Dempsey brace and a Bobby Zamora penalty quickly took Fulham to an unassailable 4-1 lead. Hatem Ben Arfa brought one back with a decent individual effort in the 85th minute, before Dempsey secured his hat-trick in the last minute of normal time.
The game struggled to entertain in the first half, and the frustration could be felt around the Cottage as Newcastle plucked away at a nervy defence. Steve Sidwell was forced off with an injury, and in an attempt to spark their attack into life, Fulham boss Martin Jol brought on Andy Johnson, prompting Bryan Ruiz to move in the centre of midfield. This proved to be costly, as Ruiz gave the ball away to Ben Arfa, who slipped the ball to Guthrie before putting away a thunderous left-footed strike.
The half time whistle blew to a haunting reception of booing around the stadium- an unfamiliar Craven Cottage atmosphere. In the second half Fulham looked eager to set things right, and Damien Duff stated his intent with an effort that just blazed over the crossbar. Minutes later the same man was in the thick of the action, this time being pushed over by Newcastle defender Davide Santon as he ran on to a long ball. It was debatable whether the push was in the box, but the penalty was awarded and coolly slotted in by Murphy, handing Fulham a lifeline.
What was to come next though was an onslaught from the home team. Johnson proved to be the spark in attack. The little striker played the ball onto Zamora, whose rebounded shot fell to Dempsey to make it 2-1. The same men were involved in the third goal, where a clever lay-on by Johnson allowed Zamora to find space for Dempsey, who secured his brace with a brilliant finish.
If the first penalty decision was a controversial one, the next one wasn’t, as Johnson continued to menace the bewildered Newcastle defence, first being fouled by Mike Williamson, but as the Fulham striker stayed on his feet, the decision was then awarded when ‘keeper Tim Krul tripped him up. Murphy handed the penalty duties to Bobby Zamora, who before this game had only scored one in his previous 14 appearances. He slammed it through the middle to make it 4-1.
Newcastle continued to toil away at the other end, and were rewarded as Ben Arfa dribbled past John Arne Riise with ease to beat David Stockdale at his near post. This was to be as good as it got for Newcastle in the second half however, as a long ball from Murphy was again brilliantly finished by Dempsey, to take the match ball home and secure a 5-2 drubbing.