MICHAEL ADUBATO - Saturday, August 5, 2006
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Fulham
Friendly - Saturday August 5, 2006
Hubert Houben Stadion
Fulham FC traveled to the small town of Goch to face Borussia Mönchengladbach and snatched a win courtesy of a second half own goal by Tobias Levels.
New 'Gladbach captain Kasey Keller guarded the home net in the first half, while Carlos Bocanegra came on after intermission for the English side with Brian McBride joining him in the 61st minute.
After the late kickoff due to the festive occasion in the relatively small 5th division stadium, the visitors held the majority of possession in the opening few minutes before winning an early free kick from 30 yards out. New Fulham signing Franck Queudrue tried to make an immediate impression, but hit it well wide.
Queudrue appeared to be the bright spark for Fulham from the very beginning and five minutes later played a long ball to Collins John but the fleet-footed Keller beat the Dutch youngster to the ball and thwarted the chance
Gladbach made their first useful run forward in the 10th minute as Marcell Jansen carried the ball up the right wing and sent in a prodding cross intended for John. The chance went for naught as Fulham defender Ian Pearce graciously accepted the serve and easily cleared his box.
Next, an active Oliver Neuville, fresh from his World Cup exploits, grabbed the ball at the halfway mark and gave the fans a dribbling display as he danced around four defenders before the fifth one stole the ball on the edge of the box.
The London outfit then managed a counterattack with Brown and Jimmy Bullard pushing forward and winning Fulham's first corner kick of the game. The 20th minute set piece taken by John was easily cleared.
A minute later at the other end Neuville set up Vaclav Sverkos with a clever downward header into Antti Niemi's box. The alert keeper saw the danger, however, and claimed before the Gladbach striker could fire in anger.
Luis Boa Morte then spotted John on the right and hit him with a 20-yard downfield pass. The defensive pressure caused the Dutchman to pull the trigger too quickly, though, and the American keeper claimed with ease.
The Londoners game plan was to hold possession in their own half and play the long ball to their lone striker John, but with the lack of support, Keller was having a relatively quiet time between the sticks.
At the half-hour mark a Michael Delura cross into the box was cleared by defender Pearce for a corner, but Peer Kluge's free kick never threatened.
In the next minute Kluge picked out an open Sverkos at the far post, but the Czech was wasteful and sent his header out for a goal kick when he should have done better.
After clearing their area Fulham could have been put under pressure from a Kasper Bogelund long ball to the Switzerland-born Neuville, but the old-timer saw the flag go up and stopped in his tracks.
In the 35th minute Bullard sent in an acute cross which was met by the head of Papa Bouba Diop near the spot; however the American #1 was untroubled as it sailed over his crossbar.
The last shot of the half was a half-hearted attempt by Brown, when the ex-Spurs man took a chance from the edge of the box, only to see Keller diving to his left for a ball that went past the wrong side of the post.
At the start of the second half Chris Coleman sent on Bocanegra and Michael Timlin, while Gladbach made numerous substitutions including Keller making way for Christofer Heimeroth and seasoned defender Jeff Strasser taking up his usual central defensive position.
It took less than ten minutes into the half for Fulham take a lead that they would not relinquish.
Defender Liam Rosenoir hoofed the ball from his own end down the field to the sprinting Heidar Helguson who found his way into the box. The young second half substitution Levels attempted a clearing headed, yet directed it past a stunned Heimeroth.
After a Bernd Thijs free kick from 22 yards out hit the Fulham wall around the hour mark, the Cottagers threatened to go another goal ahead when Rosenoir served up a clean ball for Queudrue who criminally headed wide.
Seven minutes later, an effort from Gladbach striker David Degen missed the target from inside the box, and almost immediately thereafter, Marvin Compper served invitingly through the area which went unconverted as no one thought to crash the box.
With McBride on as a substitute, the American pushed his team forward, but Fulham did not come forward in numbers leaving the ex-Crew man few options.
The next half-opportunity for the English team was a 78th minute Brown corner which was happily accepted by Heimeroth. A similar chance went by the wayside moments later when a McBride cross for Helguson was snuffed out by Strasser.
The last meaningful attack of the contest came in the 85th when a Degen shot was blocked in front of goal by Diop before the game fizzled out and referee Marcel Pelgrim blew his whistle for full time.
"It was a friendly," McBride told YA, commenting on the importance of the match. "We've been working on fitness since I've been back and I've only been here a week, but I think we played well."
Borussia Mönchengladbach open the Bundesliga campaign next weekend when they host Energie Cottbus, while Fulham have one more warmup game before they open their Premiership season with a visit to Old Trafford on August 20th to face Manchester United.