Premier League - Dempsey salvages Fulham point
Sat, 27 Nov 17:08:00 2010
Premier League draw specialists Fulham ground out another point at Craven Cottage after a well contested 1-1 battle with Birmingham.
Mark Hughes’ team have now drawn nine games in the league, which leaves them hovering above the relegation zone.
Birmingham have a little breathing space in 14th, but only three points separate them and the bottom three.
The Cottagers will feel they deserved to win after dominating proceedings, but they were caught on the break by the visitors in the first half, with Sebastian Larsson finishing a lethal counterattack.
The home side lacked imagination in the final third and their search for an equaliser looked like a thankless task, until Dempsey scored a crucial leveller in the second period.
A first half full of endeavour but low on quality was dominated by Fulham. But for all their possession they created little in the way of goal-scoring chances.
Their best opportunity came in the opening five minutes when Aaron Hughes turned a header from Brede Hangeland goalwards, and had it not been for Larsson policing the back post Hughes’ men would have been in front.
The West Londoners’ leading marksman Dempsey also came close to give Fulham the lead. Some neat approach play from Diomansy Kamara set up the American on the edge of the box, but after he did well to shift the ball on to his favoured right foot he could only bend a shot wide of Ben Foster’s goal.
The England goalkeeper turned to stone as the ball swirled past his right hand post.
Alex McLeish’s men were coiled, ready to spring an assault on the counterattack and it worked to great effect in the 20th minute.
Until this point a wayward shot from Lee Bowyer was all the Blues had offered going forward. The hosts then conceded possession cheaply from an attacking throw-in and Birmingham broke at breakneck speed with Alexander Hleb leading the charge.
The ball followed the former Arsenal midfielder like an obedient dog and the visiting defenders could only look on as he stroked it to Larsson arriving at the back post, who calmly slotted the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
McLeish’s troops looked comfortable as they defended their territory. Boos of discontent rang around Craven Cottage at half-time as Fulham headed into the changing rooms a goal behind.
Propelled by a half-time rocket from Hughes the hosts set about levelling the scores and they got their just rewards. Their goal characterised their play: bereft of finesse, but full of heart.
A lofted corner from Simon Davies was headed back across goal by Zoltan Gera, where there was only going to be one winner when Dempsey rose above his marker and powered a downward header past Foster.
The Cottagers looked to capitalise on their momentum, but Birmingham were resolute and reduced Fulham to limited openings.
A fierce drive from Dempsey was beaten out by Foster. The England goalkeeper then denied substitute Eddie Johnson with his legs.
Sandwiched between these two saves, the guests almost stole the lead when a devilish corner from Larsson was met by the bulldozing Scott Dann's and he thumped a powerful header against the bar.
It was at the other end where Dann excelled and with Roger Johnson breathed defiance into the heart of Birmingham's defence to keep Fulham at bay and help earn the Midlanders a draw.Ben Welch / Eurosport