Other Sports

Fulham 2 – 0 Bolton

Fulham heaped more misery on bottom-of-the-table Bolton as goals by Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz handed the visitors their fifth loss on the trot.

Dempsey steered a fine header past Jussi Jaaskelainen just after the half-hour from Ruiz’s cross.

The American then turned provider two minutes later when he took advantage of a mix-up to set Ruiz free to chip in.

Bolton’s best chances fell to Fabrice Muamba and Mark Davies but they could not beat David Stockdale.

Owen Coyle’s side had opportunities to hit back after they went behind, but they looked devoid of confidence and lacking in leadership as they fell to their seventh defeat in eight games.

And Bolton will go into their crucial game against fellow strugglers Blackburn on Tuesday five points adrift of safety.

For Fulham the result was a welcome fillip after they crashed out of Europe in midweek to end a Europa League run which started in June.

They were barely tested by Coyle’s men but with games to come against Manchester United and Chelsea, manager Martin Jol will appreciate the three points before a busy Christmas period.

Once Nigel Reo-Coker fired wide early on, the first half was regularly punctuated by efforts on the Bolton goal with Andy Johnson off target and Brede Hangeland heading wide from a corner.

John Arne Riise drew a decent save from Jaaskelainen as the hosts brushed off the loss of Bobby Zamora, who failed a fitness test on a knee problem before the game, and began to build momentum.

Coming into the match Bolton had the worst record in the Premier League for conceding from crosses so it was no surprise that they did so again on 32 minutes, although Dempsey’s header was a cracker.

Moussa Dembele was given room to drive at the Bolton defence and when he found Ruiz down the right side, the Costa Rican crossed for the American to score his eighth of the season from 12 yards.

Dempsey then returned to the favour just over a minute later when he set Ruiz free down the centre of the pitch and the Central American cheekily looped the ball over the Bolton keeper.

The goals dealt a blow to the visitors, who remain as the league’s worst defensive side, and their reason for their position was highlighted in the second goal when both Gary Cahill and Zat Knight were drawn to the ball in the centre of the pitch.

Bolton did recover somewhat before the break and Mark Davies forced a save from recalled Fulham keeper Stockdale, but visiting manager Coyle was left ruing another poor first half-performance and sent on Chris Eagles and Gretar Steinsson for the second period, with David Ngog replacing Kevin Davies 10 minutes after half-time.

Ngog and Eagles both went close for the visitors, but for all Coyle’s positivity in the build-up to the game, Bolton were often outnumbered in midfield, where Reo-Coker and Muamba sometimes struggled.

That the hosts did not add to their lead was down to some smart defending by Cahill, but while he helped stem the flow, there were few signs that Wanderers could claw their way back into the match.

Perhaps what will worry Coyle most as he heads to Ewood Park for the vital game against Blackburn is that his team look like they have lost their appetite for the fight.