Wow where to start! What a home opener the White's treated us to this season. There are so many tempting bits to start with but one thing stood out over and above everything else for me in today's match and that was the combination of Dembele and Diarra in the center of the pitch. I was fearful entering this opener that the absence of Danny Murphy would cause major hiccups in the Fulham offensive flow but even at it's very best under Murphy I cannot recall seeing a Fulham team move the ball so smoothly and confidently around the pitch. In large part that can be credited to our two central midfielders and their ability to link the defense with the front line. One or the other of the pair always seemed to be in position to receive the ball when we were in possession and both seemed to always be in position to slow Norwich's attack when we were not in possession. Diarra looked trimmer, fitter and far faster then I recall him being last season. Moussa looked like, well, he looked like Moussa and was a joy to watch and when in possession of the ball it looked like it would require a small forklift to separate either them from the ball.
The new boys didn't do half bad today either did they! I like the look and speed of Sascha Riether and though I am normally pretty reserved about going out on a limb and making predictions I am going to say after one match that Mladren Petric is the best striker in a Fulham shirt since McBride. In fact, I don't think it is really even close and the two goals are only a small part of the reason why. Who was the last Fulham striker to pull on a shirt that demonstrated touch, vision, a nose for goal and the subtle nuance to pull off the pass he split the Canaries defense with to put Ruiz in on goal and the back heel to set up Kaka's? Add the two goals and I am far more impressed with Petric's opener than I was with Pog's last season.
I was thrilled with the combination of Kacaniklic and Riise bombing down the left side. I am still waiting for Riise to see the ball fly into the back of the net and when it does I expect him to become a more regular contributor on the score sheet. Duff and Riether did fine for the opening sally with the defensive stoppers of Schwarzer, Hangeland and Hughes putting in another stellar shift.
The lone bit of criticism, if any can be leveled at Fulham's play today, I will reserve for Ruiz. For the most part he played an excellent match but there are times that it just looks like he cruises along a little too much and lacks that killer instinct you need in front of goal. I was certain he was going to score on the through ball Petric fed him yet he did not even get off a shot. Full credit to the Norwich defender for tracking back but I am hoping in time that Ruiz will learn a bit of urgency and begin to put those away. I have a feeling Ruiz will wind up being one of my favorites so perhaps I am being a bit harsh.
All in all it was a
display by the White's.