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Five key Mexico players vs. U.S.


Euro 2016: Five things to watch

Euro 2016

Are you watching, Lawro?

After their impressive start to the Premiership season, it's curious to report that the regulars at Fulham FC are restless.

Sitting in fourth in the table after a comfortable home win against a disappointing Leicester side, the lack of praise coming their way has riled a few and it is the views of BBC TV pundit Mark Lawrenson, in particular, that have ruffled feathers.

It seems that Lawro's continued claims that Chris Coleman's side are relegation certainties has not gone down too well in this part of the world and if the official programme for this match is anything to go by, the softly spoken former Liverpool defender had better watch his back in the presence of Fulham fans.

'According to the BBC's oracle of football knowledge, we're still absolutely useless,' read the forthright programme, with a caption reading 'Fulham are s**t' adorning a picture of a smiling Lawro.

'He continues to predict doom, gloom and defeat for the Whites, despite our admirable start to the season,' it went on and he was also mentioned in less than positive terms on other pages of the publication.

Against a Leicester side managed by ex-Fulham boss Micky Adams, Fulham were presented with the ideal opportunity to confound their critics yet again and they eventually did just that, after wasting the opportunities to finish off the Foxes before half time.

Coleman has gone on record to remind Fulham fans that his side's target this season is not to entertain the masses, merely collect the points they require to secure their place in the Premiership and after 35 minutes of lifeless action, they looked to be following his instructions to perfection.

Inspired by their energetic midfielder Steed Malbranque, Fulham had been the better side in the opening exchanges and with the game's first threatening shot on target, they took the lead. Malbranque's burst opened the door and after Lee Clarke's knock on, Luis Boa Morte fired past Ian Walker from six yards out.

It was the cue for cheesy music to boom out over the PA and a polite clapping and nodding from the hoards of Japanese fans on hand to witness the latest display from Junichi Inamoto.

Around 400 fans flock to watch Japan's ultimate football hero at Loftus Road for Fulham home matches - and it seemed a similar number of students from the Far East had blagged their way into the press box working, no doubt, under the guise of The Tokyo Times.

Inamoto nearly scored two minutes before the break, only to see his shot hit the woodwork via deflections from Leicester's Steve Howey Ian Walker, but the game should have been over as a contest by then.

When Gerry Taggart was penalised for pulling back Louis Saha in the box, a debate began that had the potential to make or break this match. Malbranque grabbed the ball and insisted he would take the penalty kick. In fact, he placed the ball behind his back as Saha attempted to wrestle it from him and unless Lee Clarke intervened, handbag blows may have been exchanged.

When Malbranque stepped up and placed a feeble free kick into Walker's grateful arms as he dived to his left, you can only imagine the thoughts that were filling Saha's mind.

Fulham's only out and out forward in a 3-5-1 formation had his chance to collect the goal he doubtless felt he would have scored from the spot mid-way through the second half, but Saha's header from Malbranque's crashed into the side netting. And at that point, Leicester looked as if they could get something from this game, with Les Ferdinand and Paul Dickov released from the bench by boss Adams, but Fulham proved they were up for the challenge by finding a vital second goal just when they needed it.

Boa Morte's first shot blocked by Alan Rodgers, but the Portuguese international was alert enough to haul himself off the floor and fire past Walker at the second attempt. It was all over and with 14 points to their credit now from seven games played, Chris Coleman was a content figure as he faced the press.

'No one expected us to be fourth at this stage and we are proving a few people wrong,' he said, without mentioning Mark Lawrenson. 'If we prove them all wrong at the end of the season, then I will be happy.

'We are not playing fantastic, superb football by any means, but we are battling hard and have that little bit of quality that can win games for us. We are solid and hard to beat and as long as that continues, we will not go far wrong.

'This game could easily have slipped away from us. We had the chances to kill it off in the first half and Leicester made it hard for us at the start of the second half, but we battled on and got what we deserved.'

Dickov hit the bar for Leicester a couple of minutes after Boa Morte's second goal, but they looked a broken bunch as they trudged off the field at the end. Finding silver linings in this performance was difficult for boss Micky Adams and you have to wonder where the side that slipped to 19th in the table after this defeat will get the 40 odd points they require to stay in this league.

'I don't think we helped ourselves with the goals we gave away, but we will not beat ourselves about this,' said a manager who already seems resigned to the fact that he may not have the squad to stave off relegation this season. 'The critics say we will not win games in this league and at the minute, we are proving them absolutely spot on.

'I have an honest bunch of professionals who will give their all and to have flair, you have to pay millions of pounds. We don't have that, but we will keep going and if it remains to be seen whether it will be enough at the end of the season. We are in the bottom three now and have to respond. Here's hoping we can do that.'

So Fulham are fourth and if they keep this up, Champions League football will be on the agenda next season. What would Mark Lawrenson make of that?

  • Email with your thoughts.