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Blackburn 1, Fulham 1: Adventures in refereeing

18 September 2010

Well, Fulham kept its unbeaten mark alive and took yet another point from a trailing position, but the main attraction at Ewood Park was referee Anthony Taylor, who had a profound impact on the 1-1 draw. Taylor, reffing only his second Premier League match, looked out of his depth as several controversial non-calls directly influenced the match.

Clint Dempsey beat Ryan Nelsen to a cross and thumped a header past Paul Robinson.

Blackburn started much the brighter side, gleefully humping long balls into the Fulham box with varied success, and Rovers could feel rightly displeased when Taylor missed Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer handling a ball outside the box to help stop a Morten Gamst Pedersen chip after Schwarzer spilled a catch of a long ball.

As such, it wasn’t totally unfair Blackburn took a 30th minute lead, although how they did it was entirely unfair. As a long free kick descended into Fulham’s penalty area, Blackburn striker El-Hadji Diouf sought out the advancing Schwarzer, veered right and clearly and intentionally hipchecked the Fulham keeper. With Schwarzer splattered on the turf, there was no one to claim the ball or stop Christopher Samba’s tame backwards header from bouncing into the net.

After the halftime whistle, Schwarzer confronted Taylor about the non-call, pointing and seemingly suggesting that the referee have a look at the replay during the break. Given the way practically every whistle and non-call went Fulham’s way in the second half, you have to believe Taylor did — and didn’t like what he saw.

Fulham had been getting into the match even before Blackburn’s undeserved opener, and the Cottagers’ quality was rewarded 13 minutes after the break when a quick restart caught Blackburn out. Danny Murphy picked out Moussa Dembele centrally and his quick pass to the left wing teed up Carlos Salcido’s cross that was powered home by the head of Clint Dempsey.

The final 30 minutes featured some half-chances for both sides, but nothing clear-cut, and a draw probably was the fairest result, even with the controversial Blackburn goal.

All in all, I’ll take it. Once Fulham settled in, they played some fine possession soccer and carved out some half-chances, although the absence of Bobby Zamora’s hold-up play and strength was notable. As discussed in the preview, Blackburn is very tough at home and had handled Fulham very well in the past, so this is a good point.

Amazingly, Fulham still have led for maybe 35 minutes all season, but sit undefeated on seven points, with six of those coming from losing positions. In USMNT fashion, the Cottagers have shown great fighting spirit, but it would be nice to get and hold a lead once in a while.

Next up: A quick turnaround for Tuesday’s Carling Cup away match at Stoke, which should be another turgid, physical affair. Fulham then returns home for a league match against reeling Everton, which lost at home to Newcastle today and still sits 19th in the table on just two points from five matches.

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