Michel Vorm was once again the hero for Swansea City after his master class display between the posts to ensure Swansea City another three points at home. The Dutchman was on fine form for the Swans, preventing numerous goalscoring opportunities for Fulham including a late penalty taken by Clint Dempsey.
There were multiple changes for both teams’ starting eleven. Brendan Rodgers had obviously taken notice of the impressive substitute performances from Luke Moore and Wayne Routledge at their defeat to Blackburn last week with both players making the starting XI. Steven Caulker also returned for his first game since picking up an injury at Arsenal in September.
For Fulham the changes were forced due to injury. Danny Murphy was expected to make a recovery for the game but failed to make the bench. Bobby Zamora was another notable absence as Martin Jol decided to rest his England international with Andy Johnson taking his place to lead the line.
Swansea dominated the first half against a Fulham team that rarely managed to launch a real threat on goal whilst the score was even. It appeared that the players were under instruction to sit back and launch the occassional counter attack, however the Swansea defence seemed totally competent in dealing with the attacking options of Dempsey, Ruiz, Johnson et al. with ease in the first 45.
The first real chance of the match came from Swansea’s Luke Moore. The former West Brom and Aston Villa striker was given plenty of space around 25 yards out from goal and decided to take advantage with a long range effort. Mark Schwarzer was given little time to anticipate the strike but the ball sailed inches over the bar.
A few minutes later, Swansea had a good claim for a penalty denied by referee Jon Moss. A Mark Gower corner was making its way toward the cluster of Swansea and Fulham players when Leroy Lita was felled by John Arne Riise. The referee instantly dismissed and given the other way.
The only other real opportunity of the half came from Scott Sinclair. Sinclair received a crossed ball from Neil Taylor, which he controlled and brought down excellently, and escaped the attentions of Stephen Kelly but the resultant shot was low and struck with little venom. An easy save for Schwarzer in the Fulham goal.
Despite the low number of goalscoring opportunities, Swansea were certainly attacking with much more intent than previous matches. Rodgers’ team had initially gained plaudits for their style of play but had recently been criticised for passing the ball a little too much and not taking their opportunities. This message had obviously been conveyed to the squad as they consistently searched for the opening goal.
The second half was where the game turned up the tempo. Swansea continued their pressure on the Fulham goal with a good effort from Leroy Lita. Lita held the ball up well against the pressure of the Fulham back line but his shot on the turn ended up wide of the goal.
Lita was also involved in a worrying moment for Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. The Australian climbed high above the pack below him to catch a Wayne Routledge cross but connected with Lita on the way down, bending backwards and landing neck first to the floor. The Fulham physios acted immediately but luckily the 39-year old didn’t suffer an injury and continued the match.
10 minutes into the half and the deadlock was broken in scrappy fashion. A corner from Mark Gower was intercepted by Schwarzer who punched the ball clear of his goal. Wayne Routledge latched onto the end of the loose ball to fire a volleyed shot at goal, taking a deflection and finding its way to Scott Sinclair. Sinclair also took his strike at goal which took yet another deflection, this time off Clint Dempsey, sending Schwarzer the wrong way and putting Swansea one nil up. Despite the contact from Dempsey, Sinclair claimed the goal as his own, breaking his duck of scoring from open play for the season.
Fulham responded to going a goal down with gusto. Immediately they were down the throats of the Swansea defence and Michel Vorm was called into action to deny Bryan Ruiz an excellent opportunity. The combination play between Dempsey and Ruiz put the Costa Rican through on goal but Vorm made his first of many great saves in the half to deny the equaliser.
That was just one of several attempts Fulham made to beat the seemingly unbeatable Michel Vorm. John Arne Riise dispatched a free kick struck with absolute power that flew inches wide of the post. Andy Johnson was put through on goal minutes later but Vorm rushed out from his line to close down the angle and parry Johnson’s shot for a corner.
After the initial onslaught it was substitute Kemy Agustien that shown the Swans weren’t happy with just sitting back after gaining a one goal cushion. An impressive run down the left wing from Sinclair lead to a dead end but the winger pulled the ball back to Agustien who struck a strong side footed shot that smashed against the post.
Less than five minutes after his introduction to the game, Danny Graham thrown away a chance to put the game to bed. Agustien was involved again, playing a well weighted through ball to Graham who cleverly beat the offside trap. Bearing down on goal, Graham didn’t dispatch his shot quick enough giving Fulham time to get players back and block the eventual strike. Mark Gower latched onto the rebound but his effort couldn’t hit the target.
Graham’s miss started to seem all the more wasteful after Fulham brought on Kerim Frei and Orlando Sa who both were involed in their next assault on the Swansea goal. A low cross from Andy Johnson took the slightest of deflections to roll inches past the reach of both Orlando Sa and Clint Dempsey but Frei found the loose ball in space only to place his shot straight into the arms of Michel Vorm.
Frei made up for his wasteful effort minutes later, winning a penalty after Jazz Richards intercepted the Swiss midfielder’s run. Clint Dempsey stepped up to take what was seemingly the equalising goal but Michel Vorm predicted the shot superbly making good contact with the save to knock the ball away for a corner. It was Vorm’s second penalty save of the season after he also denied Ben Watson’s effort in Swansea’s first home game of the season against Wigan.
Fulham maintained a never say die attitude despite the penalty miss but the finishing blow was dealt by Danny Graham one minute into injury time. A low corner from Gower found Graham at the near post to intelligently side foot the ball past Schwarzer and secure the three points for Swansea.
Swansea had to work very hard to secure the three points but excellent defensive displays from Ashley Williams and the unbeatable Michel Vorm worked wonders against the efforts of the Fulham forward line. Notable mentions to Luke Moore who had a very good game in a more withdrawn role and Wayne Routledge who will certainly be giving Rodgers a selection headache between himself, Dyer and Sinclair for the two wing positions.
Fulham will no doubt feel hard done by after the penalty miss and unfortunate manner of the first goal but it was an excellent effort by the visitors. The three points see’s Swansea jump up to 11th place in the table whilst Fulham drop one place to 14th.
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