Fulham flies past Melbourne

Fulham has notched its first win of its Australian tour, overcoming reigning Hyundai A-League champion Melbourne Victory 3-0 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.

Fulham has notched its first win of its Australian tour, overcoming reigning Hyundai A-League champion Melbourne Victory 3-0 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.

It was a game played with all the urgency you'd expect from an early pre-season friendly, with both teams looking decidedly rusty, in particular the English Premier League outfit, which could have easily been two goals down inside the first ten minutes.

After recovering from their sluggish start, the Cottagers took the lead courtesy of a 33rd-minute Andy Johnson penalty. And, there was to be no repeat of the spectacular late fade out from the tourists from their first game Down Under against Gold Coast (a 2-1 loss) last Wednesday.

Their defence was tight, the midfield stopped turning over the ball and had Bobby Zamora had his shooting boots on, the win would have been more convincing. Subs Eddie Johnson (67th minute) and Erik Nevland (73rd minute) sealed the result with simple second-half goals.

Melbourne dominated the first 30 minutes and as early as the second minute could have been ahead when Archie Thompson's header from a corner was cleared off the line. Mark Schwarzer made a rare error from a Thompson cross on 10 minutes, requiring some desperate defence, while Leigh Broxham's free kick tested out the Qantas Socceroos keeper.

Danny Allsopp was being given far too much space early on by John Pantsil down the left, and twice could have tested Schwarzer out, only to have shots blocked.

Fulham manufactured a scarcely-deserved opening goal on 33 minutes, when Danny Murphy fed Andy Johnson and the big striker was bundled over in the box by Kevin Muscat. Strebe Delovski pointed to the spot and gave the Victory skipper a card before Johnson stepped up to easily convert the penalty to Mitch Langerak's left.

Seol Ki Hyeon shot just over close to half time, reminding Melbourne that its early profligacy could be further punished in the second half. Roy Hodgson made just one change at half-time, compared with six in the Gold Coast game and the stability was there for all to see as Fulham embarked on a much-better second 45.

Goalkeeper Glenn Moss, on for Langerak at half time, snuffed out Andy Johnson as he bore down on goal early in the second half, but was fighting a losing battle.

Two-nil looked a formality on 55 minutes when Zoltan Gera rounded two Melbourne defenders, then laid on for Zamora, who beat Moss but couldn't beat Evan Berger on the line. Perhaps the thought of a prospective move to Hull was on Zamora's mind as a few minutes later he fluffed a half volley with the goal at his mercy.

Thompson made a similar gaffe up the other end on the hour, managing to hit woodwork and not net when given too much space by the Fulham defence. Thai international Surat Sukha then marked his first Melbourne appearance by shooting over from range.

A raft of changes from both sides followed, including the introduction of Eddie Johnson. He was on the field for less than a minute when Andranik rolled a long clever pass through and he ran onto the ball and easily converted it for Fulham's second.

Melbourne then handed the match to Fulham on a plate in the 73rd minute, when Muscat's pass to Billy Celeski was seized on by Seol, who fed Erik Nevland for another simple goal.

With Fulham having secured the win and Melbourne happy to absorb the pressure and prevent the score-line getting ugly, the match tempo dropped off in the final ten minutes, and the scoring chances dried up, apart from Nevland's lobbed attempt which hit the underside of the bar.

Fulham now travels to Perth to take on the Glory on Wednesday while Melbourne's final pre-season warm-up is against Adelaide in Launceston on July 26.

Melbourne Victory 0 Fulham 3 (Andy Johnson 33', Eddie Johnson 67', Erik Nevland 73') Saturday, July 11, 2009 Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

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