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By ESPN Staff

Hughes hails Hangeland

Mark Hughes feels that Brede Hangeland is the equal of any central defender in the Premier League.

Hughes was an admirer of Hangeland even before he was appointed as Roy Hodgson's replacement at Fulham last summer, and the opportunity to work at close quarters with the 29-year-old has allowed Hughes to realise just how good he is.

At Manchester City on Sunday, not only did Hangeland produce a towering defensive performance that kept Carlos Tevez and company at bay, he also played the delicate pass to Andrew Johnson that released the Fulham striker to cross for Damien Duff's opener.

"Brede is one of those players that you don't realise how good he is until you actually work with him," Hughes said. "There are a number of those players at Fulham.

"In that sense, I was delighted with what I discovered there. As a ball-playing centre-half, Brede is as good as they come. He can see the type of passes he played in the build-up to our goal. He doesn't just want to clear his lines."

So willing is Hangeland to play, he can land himself in bother with his manager.

"On occasion he will get a little bit of criticism from me because we can sometimes overplay, but it is great to see the kind of pass he played to Andy Johnson," Hughes said.

Sunday's draw extended a remarkable run for Fulham at Eastlands. The Londoners have lost only once in eight league visits.

Their latest result followed on from an equally spirited point against Chelsea a fortnight ago, which really should have been three given Clint Dempsey missed an injury-time penalty.

It means Fulham are still only four points off the drop zone, although Hughes insists he is not losing any sleep over the threat of relegation.

"We are looking up rather than at what is behind us," he said. "We feel there are a number of teams in front of us that we are capable of catching."

Saturday's opponents Blackburn have already been caught and overtaken - admittedly only on goal difference - and Fulham should be bolstered for that encounter by the return of star striker Bobby Zamora, who missed Sunday's game with a minor ankle injury.

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