/ Soccer

Fulham 2-1 Norwich

Updated: Saturday, 31 Mar 2012 17:38

Damian Duff got Fulham's second goal John Arne Riise (L) congratulates Clint Dempsey, who scored the opener for Fulham
Damian Duff got Fulham's second goal John Arne Riise (L) congratulates Clint Dempsey, who scored the opener for Fulham

Clint Dempsey's early goal helped put Fulham on course to a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Norwich today. The US international bundled home the opener inside two minutes after John Ruddy parried a Bryan Ruiz shot into his path.

Damien Duff doubled Fulham's advantage in the 13th minute, although an impressive first-half performance was tempered somewhat by Pavel Pogrebnyak limping off injured.

Substitute Aaron Wilbraham's 77th minute effort led to a nervy ending but the Cottagers held on to end a three-match losing streak.

Fulham came into the match on a poor run of form, with Monday's 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford equalling a club worst run of three goalless Premier League outings.

However, any fears that the streak would be extended against the Canaries were extinguished inside the opening two minutes.

Fulham broke forward as Ruiz latched onto a long ball, turned and saw a low drive saved by goalkeeper Ruddy, whose parry fell kindly for Dempsey to bundle home.

The American's 10th goal in all competitions this year was followed up by a period of sustained Norwich pressure.

Paul Lambert's side were enjoying the lion's share of possession but went further behind in the 13th minute.

Again the Canaries were caught out by a quick surge forward as Dempsey slotted the ball through to Duff, who curled home a left-footed effort from inside the box.

Mousa Dembele had a shot deflected as Fulham pushed for a third, before Dempsey twice saw headers go awry.

Elliott Ward picked up the game's first booking for a challenge on Ruiz in the midst of the Cottagers' dominance and there were calls from the home faithful for the centre-back's dismissal after he was adjudged to have taken down Pavel Pogrebnyak minutes later.

The Russia international looked to have picked up a knock in the clash and was replaced in the 35th minute by debutant Alex Kacaniklic.

While struggling to control the match, Norwich were still looking dangerous in flashes and Jonny Howson wasted a gilt-edged chance to reduce the deficit by firing across the face of goal.

However, only the goal frame and a last-ditch debutant Ryan Bennett block prevented Fulham taking an unassailable lead on the stroke of half-time as Dempsey hit the post from an acute angle and Dembele saw his follow-up deflected behind.

Seeing his side were lacking an end product, Norwich boss Lambert brought on striker Simeon Jackson in place of defender Zak Whitbread for the second period.

The alteration saw the visitors switch to a 3-5-2 formation, although that gave Kacaniklic a free reign down the left flank in the early stages.

The 20-year-old was impressing on his Fulham debut and was unfortunate to see a superb right-footed curled effort tipped onto the crossbar by Ruddy four minutes after the restart.

Norwich tightened up soon after and attacked with renewed vigour, with Mark Schwarzer doing well to stop a Wes Hoolahan drive before Aaron Hughes brilliantly blocked Andrew Surman.

Russell Martin headed straight at Schwarzer from the resulting corner, before David Fox collected a booking for scything down Dembele.

Surman saw a 25-yard free kick deflect wide as the Canaries continued to press, before Stephen Kelly burst through at the other end and was only thwarted by Bennett's late sliding tackle.

The chance began a change in momentum in the home side's favour, with Kacaniklic, Hughes and John Arne Riise all going close.

While the Whites were looking comfortable, they - like so many times before this season - switched off in the final 15 minutes.

Moments after substitute Wilbraham inexplicably shot wide, he made amends by reducing the deficit 13 minutes from time as his effort deflected in off Hughes.

As Fulham began to rock, Norwich threw bodies forward and only last-gasp defending prevented Lambert's side finding another goal.

Schwarzer and his defence were being tested by the visitors, with Dickson Etuhu booked shortly after coming on against his former club.

Wilbraham and Kyle Naughton had efforts as the game came to a close, but the west Londoners held out.