Sep 15 2012 By Paul Warburton
Fulham 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
THE flag of Bulgaria flew loud and proud at Fulham this afternoon.
Quite where fans get hold of such a thing is all credit to them – but not as much as the man who inspired the need.
Dimitar Berbatov (pic) oozed the class Manchester United felt they could ignore – and more fool them on the basis of this performance.
The new striker’s touch and vision was the difference between the two sides, that is before Peter Odemingwe decided the best way to win back the ball was try and take Sascha Riether’s leg off.
The deserved red card after half an hour irrevocably tilted the pitch towards the Whites, but not before Albion had the better of the first 20 minutes.
James Morrison tried his luck with a long-range effort on the end of patient build-up that needed Mark Schwarzer to parry over even though the fizzer was straight at him.
The keeper then gratefully saw a low centre bypass his box and away to safety before Fulham gained the upper hand.
The first goal was carved out by Alex Kacanikilic’s clever twisting run that sold two Albion defenders down the Thames.
The Swede’s low centre had to be dug from under the Bulgarian’s feet, but if anything it bought Berbatov a precious nano-second to look up and curl the ball wonderfully past Foster and into the corner.
The two benches had a front-row seat to Odemingwe’s sending off.
What went through the Albion striker’s mind is anyone’s guess but his reckless lash at Riether from behind was daft.
A more obvious red card would have been hard to imagine and there are few more deserving the long walk of shame back across the pitch to the Cottage.
Kacanikilic had already seen the fruits of his labours down the left and when his heel was clipped by Gareth McAuley on the left of the box, it just needed Berbatov to complete a great half and send Foster the wrong way from the spot.
A sunny September afternoon by the river was dawdling before sub Romelu Lukaku brought a decent stop out of Schwarzer on the hour that took a deflection.
It woke the Whites and Steve Sidwell’s drive from distance needed a double save from Foster. Straight after, the harassed keeper did brilliantly to stop a Damien Duff drive that hit Berbatov and would have brought him his hat-trick.
Even so, it looks as if breaking the Fulham wage barrier with a bulldozer looks well worth it to bring him to west London.
When Sidwell thrashed home a header from Hugo Rodallega’s header that hit the bar in the final two minutes – Berbatov’s home debt was complete.