Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 280

Date: 27th April 2024

Opposition: Crystal Palace

Score: 1-1

Fulham goal scorer: Rodrigo Muniz

Weather: chilly

Atmosphere: nervy

MOTM: Rodrigo Muniz hasn’t scored in recent games but he’s never stopped working his hardest for the team and giving his all against the best defenders in the game. We’ve seen his pace, power and his dancing feet. On Saturday we saw him score again but this was just one aspect of an all round composed and mature centre forward performance. One way or another, he proved again that no one has moves like Muniz.

Pre-Match: Truth

Post-Match: we went to the live Fulhamish pod at the Half Moon in Putney and caught up with Fulham friends old and new

The Crystal Palace game came at the end of a week of mixed news for Fulham fans. After flip flopping all season, Tosin finally announced that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract and would be off to sit on the beach - sorry, the bench elsewhere. Oh well, we’ll always have the penalty at Everton.

And then, to everyone’s surprise, the Club announced that season tickets would be increasing by a maximum of 4% for 2024/25. This is very welcome news after months of concern about ticket prices and credit where it’s due to all concerned, including the Club itself. After all the talk of dynamic stretch pricing and other waffle, it turned out that that “unhelpful” protest was quite helpful after all.

Crystal Palace have a new manager who has imposed new tactics and new ideas and revolutionised them into a scarily effective team. At the start of the match, it felt like Fulham had accidentally turned up to play the Champions League final - Palace were so dominant that it was eagles against fledglings. For the first ten minutes, we couldn’t get the ball out of our own half; for the next ten minutes, we couldn’t get the ball out of our own 18 yard box.

We like Diop but he seems to be hard wired to pass back to Leno 90% of the time. Given Palace’s pace and press this often felt suicidal. Even when the ball went forward no one (especially Iwobi) could pass it to a teammate so it just came straight back again. The only thing keeping fans sane was the knowledge that there was nothing riding on the game.

But then it turned out that Palace aren’t the only team with new tactics. Marco Silva has learnt from the Newcastle game where the players staged a sit-in every time they needed a break or a team talk. On precisely 29 minutes (German efficiency in action there) Leno lay down in front of his goal and the medics rushed on. Various body parts seemed to need attention - shoulder, leg, er…groin area. Meanwhile, Marek Rodak made a single shuffling run to the by-line, acknowledged the cheers of the crowd and scurried back again. All 10 outfield players surrounded Marco, gulping water and being verbally eviscerated.

Dabbling in the dark arts isn’t really something to be proud of but the strategy worked. The players stopped panicking, remembered how to pass and receive a football and even tried to attack Palace’s goal. Captain Harrison was hustling and bustling, waving everyone forward, Bassey was solid, Andreas was tireless and Muniz was grappling with Joachim Andersen and flinging himself at every ball. The tension in the stands began to relax and normal mid-table service was resumed. We had weathered an almighty storm and survived till half time at 0-0.

As good as it was to see Louis “lots of banters” Saha at half time, we worried that his Forever Fulham presentation was going to be the highlight of the day. But his successor had other ideas.

The second half was much better than the first in terms of football quality from Fulham and entertainment from everyone - it was genuinely end to end stuff with our players getting stuck in and pressing hard. Iwobi and Diop improved markedly, the fullbacks found top gear and Muniz continued to make a nuisance of himself. His goal, which came after what feels like a drought following his prolific spell in February and March, was a testament to his pace and movement as well as his hard work. The first time header past the goalie on the run as he dragged himself away from his marker was a true centre forward’s goal and one Louis Saha would have been proud of.

As ever with Muniz, his celebration was even better than the goal and especially for us as he chose the front of H7 for his dance floor. It had everything - the moves, the badge, the hugs, the rhythm, the grin……the ref putting a stop to it. But, whilst the finish was expert, the goal wasn’t made in Brazil. It was made in Belgium - a country of chocolate and waffles not Samba and sunshine. Timothy Castagne is way too understated to ever be a Player of the Season but his name should feature in the debate.

Timothy’s cross really was the highlight of the match. We had some more chances, including some beautiful corner deliveries from Andreas and a what-might-have-been shot from Bobby but things went downhill with some poor decision making in front of goal (Harrison, Harry) and in the dugout (er….Marco obviously). Once again, his subs policy was sub par. Of course it was good to see Willian but where was Adama? Why take off Andreas when he was so instrumental and Muniz when he was still looking dangerous? Was a midfield pairing of Lukić and Cairney really the right one to defend a one goal lead? And when is he going to realise that triple subs don’t work?

Palace’s goal was always coming and it was unstoppable when it arrived. But a draw was a fair result and, given their recent form, it was actually quite a good one. Also, at least we’ve stopped crawling to the finish line and started to Samba towards it instead.

Random musings:-

- How did they get the flare in and did it really fit in an A4 sized bag?

- Surely Andersen wasn’t that dirty when he played for us? Or was he just frustrated at being thwarted by Muniz at every turn?

- On that subject, the ref should have booked Andersen earlier but otherwise he had a good game

- Marco actually improved on Newcastle’s tactic by sending Rodak to warm-up - Howe didn’t bother with that piece of obfuscation

- Marco and Oliver Glasner were having a good chat on the way back from the dressing rooms. Presumably commenting on how they were dressed the same

- Mr Bishop was back. But can he samba?

With three games to go, it makes a pleasant change to watch promotion and relegation battles from afar. It’s also a relief to know that anyone who wants to renew their season ticket can. We all have another season of Premier League football at Craven Cottage to look forward to. And, even better, we know we’ll be watching our samba-ing superstar leading the Fulham line.