Swansea City ended the year on a high with a 2-1 win away from home against Fulham in their Premier League match at Craven Cottage.
Danny Graham scored his second league goal of the season and first away from home since February as he netted from close range in the 19th minute, and the Welsh side looked to be coasting as Jonathan de Guzman doubled their lead after half-time following a calamitous piece of goalkeeping from David Stockdale.
Swansea beat Fulham home and away in the Premier League last season without conceding a goal, and a close-range finish from Bryan Ruiz in the 56th minute was not enough for the hosts to salvage anything from the match as Martin Jol was left to rue another frustrating showing.
Fulham have now won only one of their last 12 Premier League games, and the final whistle was met with boos from the home fans as Swansea claimed their seventh league win of the campaign.
Top goalscorer Michu was out injured for Swansea, and replaced by Graham, with all six of the club's Premier League wins this season having included at least one goal from the Spaniard; meanwhile, Fulham goalkeeper Stockdale made his first Premier League appearance since February as Jol made six changes.
Stockdale, who came into the match having failed to keep a clean sheet in each of his last seven Premier League appearances, saw that run extended when he was first called into action in the 19th minute, at which point the hosts slipped behind after a bright start.
Nathan Dyer volleyed low to Stockdale's right, and the keeper could only parry the ball to Graham, who was on hand to turn the ball into the net in opportunistic fashion from close range to mark a rare start with a goal.
There was almost an instant response from Fulham as the off-colour Dimitar Berbatov forced Gerhard Tremmel into a smart save at his near post with a shot on target from close range, but it was a rare piece of sloppy defending from the otherwise assured visitors.
Just after the half hour mark, the ebullient Ruiz drew a fine save from Tremmel as he curled a fine effort towards the far post from the edge of the Swansea penalty area, but Fulham rarely threatened despite having their fair share of the ball.
With the home side already displaying fragile confidence, the Fulham fans booed their players off the field at the interval as Jol stormed off furiously. The result was a solitary change from Swansea as Ki Sung-Yueng replaced Wayne Routledge.
There was almost an instant response to Jol’s half-time rollicking, as Ruiz curled the ball exquisitely over the wall with Tremmel motionless, only for it to drift agonisingly wide of the far post.
Fulham began to force their way back into the match, but those endeavours were rendered irrelevant following an awful mistake from Stockdale. The Fulham goalkeeper scuffed an attempted clearance into an oblivious Hangeland, with the ball ricocheting to de Guzman, and the midfielder produced a very composed finish to pick out the far corner of the net.
Ruiz almost grabbed a goal back within seconds as he unleashed a thunderous volley from the edge of the Swansea box, with Tremmel forced to make a fine save, but he was not to be denied minutes later as he hauled the hosts back into the match.
Berbatov, who was largely out of sorts all afternoon, saw a volley blocked by Ashley Williams inside the Swansea box, with Ruiz on hand to turn the ball into the net from the six-yard box with the visitors left to desperately appeal for an offside flag in vain.
Kerim Frei was convinced that he had levelled for the hosts with a powerful volley towards the top corner of the net, only for Tremmel to produce an acrobatic stop to his left, and seconds later Berbatov had a goal ruled out for offside as he pounced from close range to convert from Giorgos Karagounis’s initial effort.
Graham should have ended the match as a contest as he raced clear of the Fulham defence and drove a low shot towards the near post, only for Stockdale to make a smart save down low to his right; Fulham, meanwhile, threw Hangeland forward as an auxiliary forward, but to no avail.
Fulham have another four home games in their next six in the league as Jol comes under increased pressure, while Laudrup can reflect upon his side ending the year with a fine win on the road which sees them consolidate ninth position in the table.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ashley Williams – Swansea: The burly centre back kept Berbatov quiet with a commanding display at the heart of the defence and left the Fulham forwards feeling very disgruntled at full-time.
FULHAM: Stockdale 5, Riether 6, Hughes 6, Hangeland 7, Briggs 7, Dejagah 5, Karagounis 6, Sidwell 6, Frei 7, Ruiz 7, Berbatov 6. Subs: Senderos 6, Rodallega 6.
SWANSEA: Tremmel 7, Rangel 7, Monk 8, Williams 8, Tiendalli 7, Agustien 7, de Guzman 7, Routledge 6, Dyer 6, Hernandez 6, Graham 7. Subs: Davies 6, Britton 6, Ki 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- David Stockdale