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By Nick Wright at Craven Cottage
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Premier League: Fulham 3 West Bromwich Albion 0
Dimitar Berbatov scored twice on his Fulham home debut to give Manchester United a reminder of what might have been as the Cottagers cruised to victory over ten-man West Brom.
The classy Bulgarian, who sealed his move from to Fulham on transfer deadline day, got his first with a sublime curled finish into the top corner on 31 minutes before dispatching a penalty in typically nonchalant fashion just before half-time.
Steve Sidwell smashed home Fulham’s third in the 88th minute to complete the scoring and hand Fulham their second win of the season.
Berbatov frequently frustrated during his time at Old Trafford but he has wasted no time in finding form for Fulham under his old Tottenham boss Martin Jol.
For West Brom, Peter Odemwingie was shown a deserved straight red card in between Berbatov’s strikes for kicking out wildly at Fulham’s Sascha Riether.
Berbatov enjoyed a dream home debut while the match descended into a nightmare for the visitors in the first half.
31-year-old Berbatov was heavily involved from kick-off and gave the Baggies an early warning when he almost got on the end of a low cross from Riether.
West Brom rallied and produced one of few chances after 10 minutes, James Morrison’s stinging diagonal drive tipped over by Mark Schwarzer after some patient build-up play.
It was all downhill for West Brom from there, however, and Berbatov’s stunning opener came after a prolonged period of pressure from the hosts.
21-year-old Sweden winger Alexander Kacaniklic was the creator, dazzling West Brom’s defence with a mazy dribble before squaring to Berbatov, who took a touch and finished brilliantly.
Brimming with confidence after his bright start, Kaciniklic was the architect for Fulham’s second too, as he was brought down by Billy Jones following another weaving run into the box.
There was little doubt who would step up to take the penalty, and on this form, there was little doubt that Berbatov would score.
West Brom threw on young Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku and Chris Brunt at the interval in a bid to get back into the game.
Towering forward Lukaku gave the Baggies a greater threat up front and he could have pulled one back against the run of play after 67 minutes but his deflected effort from the right was well held by Schwarzer.
Fulham continued to dominate though, Berbatov coming close to a hat-trick goal only to be thwarted at close range by West Brom keeper Ben Foster.
Hugo Rodallega spurned several chances before Sidwell blasted home a loose ball for Fulham’s third.
There was still time for substitute Pajtim Kasami to draw antoher good save from Foster but when the final whistle blew Martin Jol’s side were left to reflect on a good day’s work.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Riise, Hangeland, Hughes, Riether, Kacaniklic (Kasami 84), Baird, Sidwell, Duff (Smith 90), Rodallega, Berbatov. Subs not used: Stockdale, Kelly, Karagouins, Briggs, Trotta.
West Brom: Foster, Ridgwell, Olsson, McAuley, Jones, Morrison, Mulumbu, Yacob (Rosenberg 76), Fortune (Brunt 45), Long (Lukaku 45), Odemwingie. Subs not used: Myhill, Dorrans, Gera, Dawson
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 25, 691