ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 04/27/2012

Something Fulham rarely do. Seeing the two Spanish giants fall at the final hurdle in this week's Champions League semi-finals heats up an old debate

My attention is drawn to an excellent article by Richard Williams, a Guardian scribe of note, who questions the validity of Chelsea's brave march to the Champions League final. Indeed, a number of European leads lament the fact that a brand of 'anti-football' carried the day over the beautiful game of Barcelona. This does scant justice to Chelsea's fortitude and mental strength in both legs, not to mention their unflagging work-rate with 10 men in the Nou Camp. Yes, Chelsea scored from their one sight of goal at the Bridge, and their only two chances on goal Tuesday night, while Barca were profligate, epitomised by Messi's miss from the spot.

Williams asks, did Chelsea's approach kill football or embellsih it? The question would have been of more relevance put to di Matteo at the final whistle. Football is a results business. The giant scorebaord in the Nou Camp, a silent oracle, confirmed Chelsea had indeed won. Roberto and his players hugged, cried, exhaled, sank to the turf, but the spoils of victory were theirs. Achieved by playing 4-6-0 football for 50 odd minutes and shutting out Pep's supermen. In the aftermath it seemed every connoisseur of the game wept along with all Catalonia.

I'm old enough to remember the early years of the European Cup, Real Madrid's five year run of invincibility culminating with their 7-3 triumph at Hampden (att.135,000) in 1960 over Eintracht Frankfurt. Probably the greatest game of football ever. That was indeed football from another planet (Real beat Barcelona 6-2 on aggregate in the semis, Frankfurt ended Rangers dreams of the final, 12-4!) But by the mid-sixties, as my passion for the game grew, the cavalier style was already the stuff of football annuals. I remember Italian sides holding centre stage, as the word 'catenaccio' entered football's lexicon. Claudio Gentile anyone?

It was safety first football Italian style, the word means 'bolting the door.' It was cautious, boring, built on a strong back line, and all but killed the game as a spectacle. Italian coaches remained wedded to the tactic for 30 years, sadly, because it got results. Along with the time-wasting, playacting, cheating and occasional bribing of officials, the Italian approach, particularly to away legs, cast a pall over my European nights in front of the TV growing up. I've never entirely forgiven them for it.

So let's not be quick to condemn Chelsea, and to a lesser extent, Bayern for their pragmatic approach to both ties this week. They are the ones laughing all the way to May's showpiece final, while Ronaldo, Messi and co will have to watch it on the box along with the rest of us. 'Like a pianist using only one half of the keyboard,' felt Williams. But it's Chelsea who called the tune.

I can find it in my heart to congratulate our neighbours and wish them well, but here's my question for Fulham fans. Are we capable of winning 'ugly?' Can you even find a performance down the seasons that fits the bill? Never mind pulling out a result with 10 men (when did we last do that in the league in fact?), oft times watching the Whites away I've felt we were playing 4-6-0 even with eleven men! To answer my own question, the away performance at Shakhtar comes close to fitting the bill. It seems to me most managers down the years have come out and praised a side for a lop-sided performance where the boys have shown how to 'win ugly.' Does anyone recall these words passing the lips of a Fulham manager in the past decade? There's been a fair bit of the ugly for sure, anytime Michael Brown was on the pitch for a start. The only period where my enthusiasm for Fulham games tailed off for a spell (reviewing some of the horror tackles recently posted brought it all back).

Well, how about it boys. This Saturday we have a match up with Everton. The table suggests we're two evenly matched sides. More or less as we have been ever since we came up. Jelavic has been a coup, but we've got the Pog. I thought Fellaini would blow up this season but he's done well. Somehow they've compensated for the loss of Arteta. Moyes has them organised no question. For ten years we've gone up to Goodison, tried to play the Fulham way, and got NOWT to show for it. We've never scored more than once, and as we all know, never taken a point.

Hear my prayer. Just for once, can we please go up there and WIN UGLY?
Your thoughts welcome. Tell me this is the year we finally do it...Twitter@fulhamphil
More than at any time this season, COYW!!!

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Posted by fraught_with_peril on 04/27/2012

First, kudos to Chelsea. Three draws in three matches against Fulham, and now they're in the Champions final. Not only that, their defensive setup netted three goals in 180 mins against Barca, whereas they managed only two goals in 300 mins against us. Beat Everton and we could be within one table spot of the UCL finalists. Who'd have thought it?

Shakhtar had the ball all night against us in Donetsk (17-zip in corners for the hosts IIRC), but rarely with sight of goal inside 25 yds.

Roy certainly got a lot of ugly results; the results were often better than the football. Maybe most were draws and away, but many ugly results. Since then, Stoke away (Bairdinho) was ugly. Wigan away in Oct was ugly, surprisingly so.

As for 10-man results, we rarely go down to 10 thanks to good discipline. Following Dikgacoi's '09 red at W Ham, we scored two 2nd half goals for 2-1 before a cruel stoppage-time deflection off Hughes finished it at 2-2.

Goodison hoodoo, be gone. COYW !!!

Posted by bobert on 04/28/2012

So much for that huh? I would have definitely taken an Ugly win today.

Here's hoping that we can bounce back against Sunderland

Posted by Matthew on 04/29/2012

Well, we certainly lost ugly.

Blog Central: Though not as ugly as QPR...salvaged my weekend

Posted by Drago on 04/29/2012

We deserved to lose for again breaking up the Hughes-Hangeland combination and playing Senderos. Last weekend's header was fool's gold. The halftime substitution for Baird was an admission of that.

Watching Everton run that clinic on us shows how well-managed they are, both going forward and defending. In a contest between Jol and Moyes, I'd take Moyes every time.

Blog Central: A timely reminder we remain a work in progress and that Jol's ego still gets in the way of picking our best eleven. I can accept the board maybe asked the manager to see how Fulham might go minus Danny before they offer him the 12 month extension he's been haggling for, and we duly got our answer. Everything else about the game was a nightmare. I flipped off my feed in disgust after the third goal and read a book.

Posted by Rob on 04/30/2012

Not much needs to be said about this game. We've seen a variation of the theme several times already this season. Jol's ego reigns supreme even from a hospital bed.

Might as well flush it down and hope for a better effort against Liverpool. A bit of good news. The ponytailed wonder is fit and will hopefully start for LFC.

Posted by Matthew on 05/02/2012

Well, surely that counts as winning ugly. Liverpool was horrible, but Fulham weren't that great either.

Posted by colin on 05/02/2012

I still enjoy reading you posts Phil, but the comments section has really become hilarious. We are 4 points away from our best finish ever with two to play and people still aren't satisfied. Get a grip folks. Also Drago, Hughes had to shift to right back against Everton because Kelly was still injured. Do you "fans" even pay attention to what's going on in the team?

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