Tag Archives: berbatov

Manchester United 4 Fulham 1 – match report: Javier Hernandez scores twice

Man United 4 Fulham 1: Merciless Reds put on dazzling display to send Cottagers out

PUBLISHED:

19:22 GMT, 26 January 2013

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UPDATED:

19:31 GMT, 26 January 2013

Manchester United marched into the fifth round of the FA Cup after battering Fulham at Old Trafford.

Ryan Giggs scored from the spot after an Aaron Hughes handball early in the game before Wayne Rooney and two goals from Javier Hernandez put the tie beyond doubt.

Hughes clawed back a consolation for the Cottagers, but the result never looked in doubt.

Cruising: Javier Hernandez (right) is congratulated by Wayne Rooney (left) after scoring Manchester United's fourth

Cruising: Javier Hernandez (right) is congratulated by Wayne Rooney (left) after scoring Manchester United's fourth

Game over: Hernandez scored Manchester United's third to put the result beyond doubt

Game over: Hernandez scored Manchester United's third to put the result beyond doubt

Doubled: Rooney scored Manchester United's second of the evening after half-time

Doubled: Rooney scored Manchester United's second of the evening after half-time

On the spot: Ryan Giggs opened the scoring for United from the spot

On the spot: Ryan Giggs opened the scoring for United from the spot

MATCH FACTS

Man United: De Gea, Rafael, Evra, Jones, Smalling, Anderson (Kagawa 71), Giggs (Valencia 71), Carrick (Scholes 61), Nani, Rooney, Hernandez

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Welbeck, Van Persie

Goals: Giggs 3, Rooney 50, Hernandez 53, 66

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riise, Hangeland, Baird (Karagounis 46), Hughes, Riether, Sidwell, Duff (Rodallega 61), Kacaniklic, Berbatov, Ruiz (Dejagah 70)

Subs not used: Etheridge, Senderos, Briggs, Petric

Goal: Hughes 77

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

More to follow…

Incriminating: Aaron Hughes gave away the penalty after handling the ball in the box

Incriminating: Aaron Hughes gave away the penalty after handling the ball in the box

Battle: Alex Kacaniklic (right) and Rafael compete for possession

Battle: Alex Kacaniklic (right) and Rafael compete for possession

Close: Rooney looks to the skies after seeing the ball go wide

Close: Rooney looks to the skies after seeing the ball go wide

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Welcome back: Dimitar Berbatov (left) and Chris Smalling (right) battle for possession

Welcome back: Dimitar Berbatov (left) and Chris Smalling (right) battle for possession

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Powerless: Martin Jol watched his Fulham side succumb to a routine defeat

Powerless: Martin Jol watched his Fulham side succumb to a routine defeat

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On the sidelines: Robin van Persie

On the sidelines:A fan shows her support for United

On the sidelines: Robin van Persie as a fan watches United with a green and gold scarf

Michu snubbed by Tottenham, West Ham, Aston Villa, Stoke, Fulham and Leeds before Swansea swooped

REVEALED: The SIX Premier League clubs (and Leeds United) who snubbed Michu before Swansea swooped for 2.2m bargain

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 31 December 2012

If Roberto Mancini is having
sleepless nights over missing out on Robin van Persie, then one can only
imagine the mood at Tottenham's training ground every time Michu scores
for Swansea.

There,
at Hotspur Way, something of a dark comedy routine has been going on
this season between Pat Jennings and Tim Sherwood, an exchange that
usually ends with one telling the other: 'Don't mention Michu'. He's the
one that got away. Twice.

And once he was going for free. But Tottenham are not alone. Sportsmail understands
that Fulham, Stoke, West Brom, West Ham and Aston Villa were also told
by an independent agent in Spain about the 26-year-old in the summer and
encouraged to bid for a man who had just scored 15 goals in La Liga.

Summer steal: Michu has been a sensation since joining Swansea from Rayo Vallecano for just 2.2m

Summer steal: Michu has been a sensation since joining Swansea from Rayo Vallecano for just 2.2m

Who needs Michu

Michu has taken the Premier League by storm since joining Swansea in the summer. Here's how his goal tally compares with the leading scorers at the clubs he snubbed…

Premier League goals 2012-13 (as of Dec 31)

Michu – 13

Spurs – Jermain Defoe – 10

Aston Villa – Christian Benteke – 5

West Ham – Kevin Nolan – 5

Stoke – Jonathan Walters – 5

Fulham – Dimitar Berbatov – 6

West Brom – Romelu Lukaku – 6

And one in the Championship…

Leeds United – Luciano Becchio – 14

The fact that those goals came for
Rayo Vallecano, a struggling team that frequently couldn't afford to pay
their players, wasn't enough to coax an offer.

The
fact that most of the goals had come from midfield, and his release
clause was a relative snip at 3.2million, was seemingly also ignored.

In
Tottenham's case, the shame is a little deeper. Spurs were first
notified about Michu in the summer of 2011, when his contract at Celta
Vigo, who were then in the Spanish second tier, expired. It meant that
he was available on a free transfer.

At
the time, Michu was largely playing a deeper, more defensive role and
Tottenham snubbed the recommendat ion of Gerry Armstrong, a former Spurs
player-turned-Spanish football expert, to make a bid.

'Even
then, it was obvious this guy was a different class,' Armstrong said.
'He played a bit further back, but he was so comfortable on the ball.

Before he was famous: Michu in action against Real Madrid in September 2011 (when he was still up for grabs)

Before he was famous: Michu in action against Real Madrid in September 2011 (when he was still up for grabs), but Andre Villas-Boas, Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce (below, left-right) all passed up the chance to sign him

Andre Villas-Boas

Paul Lambert

Sam Allardyce

'He
had brilliant vision, could win headers, could pass, could shoot. There
didn't seem to be anything missing.' It wasn't just a Premier League
thing. Leeds, along with the six top-flight clubs, were contacted by a
Spanish agent in the summer and, like the rest, did not act on the
recommendation. Swansea stumped up 2.2m.

The Bigger Picture

'He was offered, I think, to a lot of clubs in the summer,' Michael Laudrup told Sportsmail back in August.

'I think he will be a very good player here. I have a feeling that he will.

'There
is a lot of value in the Spanish market right now. There is not a lot
of money and you can get some very good deals. I think this is a good
deal.'

That conversation took place in the
week before Swansea opened their season against QPR – Michu's debut. He
scored twice in a 5-0 win. Then he scored again in their second game, a
3-0 win over West Ham.

'He can score goals, but I think he can do more,' Laudrup said in the summer.

Indeed,
he passes well, beats players, can poach and has a pile-driver in
either foot. In keeping with Swansea's modus operandi, he is comfortable
taking possession in small spaces, but he's also 6ft 1in and is superb
in the air, making him a target for long balls and crosses.

Laudrup
spoke of adding a Plan B and a greater goal threat in pre-season and
Michu has given him both. His Premier League tally stands at 13, one
short of Van Persie, who cost current leaders Manchester United 24m.

Paying attention: Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque says he will hand Michu his first international cap

Paying attention: Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque says he will hand Michu his first international cap

The Tale of the Tape

A week ago, Vicente del Bosque, the
Spain manager, took the unusual step of promising Michu his first
international cap, almost two months before of the world and European
champions' February 6 friendly with Uruguay in Doha.

Del
Bosque spoke out the night before Michu scored his 13th league goal of
the season in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on December 23.

A
couple of days earlier, Sir Alex Ferguson had told his club's website
that he had not heard of the Spaniard prior to this season.

He
added that he would be having words with his scouting department.
Fergie won't be the only Premier League manager doing that. Or
Championship boss, for that matter.

Leading the way: Robin van Persie has scored the most goals in the Premier League this season

Leading the way: Robin van Persie has scored the most goals in the Premier League this season

VIDEO: Here's what all the fuss is about…

Fulham and Martin Jol"s issues to resolve in 2013

Fulham near crisis point after defeat against Swansea… and here are the key issues Jol and Co need to resolve in the New Year

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 30 December 2012

Among some rather vague comments about Dimitar Berbatov’s best position and Fulham’s January shopping policy, Martin Jol was adamant of one thing on Saturday evening.

Fulham’s performance in the 2-1 defeat against Swansea was, he said, their best for two months. It must have been a cold winter for some supporters.

Jol’s team are now 14th in the Barclays Premier League and only four points clear of the bottom three. Their last win was five games ago; prior to that they had been winless in seven. A drama is fast becoming a crisis and, worryingly, there are numerous issues to resolve.

Cold winter: Martin Jol claimed that the 2-1 defeat to Swansea was Fulham's best performance in two months

Cold winter: Martin Jol claimed that the 2-1 defeat to Swansea was Fulham's best performance in two months

Unlucky: Fulham were beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea

Unlucky: Fulham were beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea

LOVERS AND FIGHTERS

Jol highlighted one of Fulham’s key issues ahead of the Liverpool defeat earlier this month when he said his side had ‘too many lovers, not enough fighters’.

Those comments came after a 2-1 defeat against QPR in which his side won nine tackles (their average at the time was 17) and their tally for the season is 259 – better than only Everton and Reading.

There is much to love about the way Fulham play, especially flair players like Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz, but, Steve Sidwell and the injured Mohamadou Diarra aside, there is no great physical presence in midfield.

Left-back Matthew Briggs, making his second league start of the season, lost a 50-50 against 5ft 5in Nathan Dyer on Saturday, which told its own story.

OLD LEGS AND TOO MUCH TINKERING

Fulham have the division’s oldest squad with an average age of 27.72 years and that might explain their propensity for niggly injuries and, also, why their attacks occasionally lack zip.

Their squad is loaded with guile but, in the absence of real pace, they sometimes lack an extra dimension, which makes them easier to defend against. Earlier in the season they had one of the most prolific attacks, and yet they have scored only five in their past eight games.

Tactically, Jol has been restricted by injuries and the departures of important players like Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Danny Murphy.

With them he hoped to play a dynamic 4-3-3, but since they left, and because of injuries, he has been forced to revert to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 systems that he favours less.

Departure: Jol saw the likes of Mousa Dembele leave for pastures new

Departure: Jol saw the likes of Mousa Dembele leave for pastures new

Flying the nest: Clint Dempsey (left) followed Dembele to Tottenham

Flying the nest: Clint Dempsey (left) followed Dembele to Tottenham

Me too: Jol let Danny Murphy (left) leave for Blackburn

Me too: Jol let Danny Murphy (left) leave for Blackburn

Jol said: ‘In May we had Murphy, Dembele and Dempsey in midfield. After that we had Diarra, Sidwell and Ruiz. Last week I played with Kieran Richardson, Giorgios (Karagounis) and Chris Baird… we cannot play in our formation the last three months.’

There is no denying the fine job Jol has done while overhauling the teams of Roy Hodgson and Mark Hughes – only three of the 18-man squad that faced Swansea were involved in the 2010 Europa League final – but he seems unsure of what his best XI is. Indeed, he has retained the same players for consecutive games only once this season and on Saturday there were six changes.

AWAY DAY MISERY

The never-ending issue. Of their 11 completed Premier League seasons, they have never won more than five games on the road in a campaign (2003-04) and averaged three.

They have done so only once this so far season, when they beat Wigan 2-1.

JANUARY SALES

Jol admitted on Saturday that reinforcements are needed. Sportsmail understands he will enter the January market with a 10million budget and wants a goalkeeper, defender and midfielder.

Jol said: 'I have the chairman’s number and if I need something I give him a phone call. So I gave him a phone call.

'Sometimes he gives me a call. I feel if everyone is fit we are good enough, but there are a few players who are a bit older, a bit injury prone, so we have to try to do something.'

Woeful: David Stockdale made an error for Swansea's second goal

Woeful: David Stockdale made an error for Swansea's second goal

Beneficiary: Jonathan De Guzman pounced to score the decisive goal

Beneficiary: Jonathan De Guzman pounced to score the decisive goal

On the back of Saturday’s showing, the goalkeeper search will take on added importance. Second-choice keeper David Stockdale had a shocker and the second goal was a ‘Christmas gift’ to Swansea, according to Jol.

Regular stopper Mark Schwarzer, 40, was out with a neck injury, but after years of impressive performances he is having a relatively poor season behind a leaky defence (only five teams have conceded more than Fulham’s 36).

CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM

Bryan Ruiz. He missed six games with injury, but on his first start since November 18 he was Swansea manager Michael Laudrup’s man of the match.

His partnership with Berbatov is lovely to watch and can be extremely effective with the right support.

‘He was one of our best players so I’m very happy that he’s back to his old level and that he’s pulling the strings,’ Jol said.

When fit, Ruiz has the ability to get Fulham scoring again and the points should follow.

Every cloud... Bryan Ruiz (left) has dazzled behind the frontman this season

Every cloud… Bryan Ruiz (left) has dazzled behind the frontman this season

Dimitar Berbatov of Fulham shows shirt saying Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball

Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball: Fulham hitman Berbatov delivers special message to his team-mates… and then gets booked for shirt stunt!

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UPDATED:

16:49 GMT, 26 December 2012

Revealing a slogan underneath a team jersey usually means a footballer has something to say, but Dimitar Berbatov’s was a simple instruction.

The Fulham man’s ‘Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball’ t-shirt, or rather, scrawled message on the front of his thermal wear, was unveiled as he celebrated scoring against Southampton.

It raised a few smiles – we can give the guy credit for humour – but referee Phil Dowd wasn’t in the mood for laughing and booked him for removing his shirt.

I'm the man! Berbatov issues an instruction to his teammates

I'm the man! Berbatov issues an instruction to his teammates

Main man: Fulham players celebrate with the Bulgarian

Main man: Fulham players celebrate with the Bulgarian

Booked: Referee Dowd wasn't in the mood

Booked: Referee Dowd wasn't in the mood

He's now netted six goals for the
Cottagers who are enduring a miserable spell in the Premier League, and
his stunt is worthy of cult appreciation.

He’s not alone – Manchester City
joker Mario Balotelli’s ‘Why Always Me’ t-shirt had fans asking if he
was tiring of the limelight, as unlikely as that sounds.

But while they’re commended for
comedy value, neither the Italian nor Berbatov’s cheeky confidence will
earn places in the hall of t-shirt fame alongside Robbie Fowler’s nod to
the beleaguered Liverpool dockers or Ian Wright’s ‘179 Just done it’,
when he broke the club goalscoring record at Arsenal.

Perhaps Berb’s next one could read
‘Pass Me The Ball To My Feet’, however, given his misplaced header from
six yards out, just minutes later.

Six of the best: Berbatov netted his sixth goal for Fulham

Six of the best: Berbatov netted his sixth goal for Fulham

Fulham need Dimitar Berbatov to be happy, says Martin Jol

Boss Jol admits only a happy Berbatov can help struggling Fulham prosper again

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Fulham's fortunes have fluctuated this season, almost in time to the mood swings of Dimitar Berbatov.

Manager Martin Jol wants to see his striker smiling again and he admits that it may require a nudge in the ribs to achieve it.

Fulham were thumped 4-0 by Liverpool on Saturday and another defeat at home to Southampton could see them sucked into a relegation battle.

Smile, it's Christmas: Dimitar Berbatov is without a goal since early November

Smile, it's Christmas: Dimitar Berbatov is without a goal since early November

Berbatov is without a goal since the start of November and Jol is clearly concerned.

'If things are going well then everyone will be happy with him but if things are not going well then he can be unhappy,' said Jol.

'He is almost used to winning at the clubs where he was [before] so we have to talk to him.

'He has to put in the same attitude and work rate that he always did. When he does that there’s no problem but he is a player who we have to keep on his toes. We were very happy with him for the first couple of months and we have to keep each other happy.'

Jol confirmed he is interested in Derby’s young midfielder Will Hughes but is unsure of winning the 10million race to buy him.

'He’s a wonderful talent. Believe me there is probably at least 10 clubs out of the Barclays Premier League having a look at him,' he said. 'We’ve been really stretched in the last few weeks so I feel that we will have a good look at the transfer market.'

Southampton’s search for points is even more urgent but manager Nigel Adkins wants entertainment too.

Adkins was unhappy with his side’s dour performance in the home defeat by Sunderland, when Southampton failed to score for only the fourth time in 18 Premier League games.

He said: 'I hope the Fulham game will be more entertaining. I get frustrated when the games aren’t entertaining.'

Liverpool 4 Fulham 0 – match report

Liverpool 4 Fulham 0: Jol's men crash and burn as Downing turns on the style

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UPDATED:

20:59 GMT, 22 December 2012

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing had a rare day to remember at Anfield as his first Barclays Premier League goal for the club wrapped up a comfortable victory.

Only last week the England international had admitted he may leave next month after manager Brendan Rodgers said he could go.

If that was the incentive to put himself in the shop window it worked as he registered his first league assist in setting up Steven Gerrard – after Martin Skrtel's opener – and capped his performance with a goal of his own before Luis Suarez added an injury-time fourth.

Reds in raptures Liverpool will be smiling over Christmas after a comprehensive victory

Reds in raptures Liverpool will be smiling over Christmas after a comprehensive victory

Good start: Martin Skrtel fired in after some poor defending to get Liverpool on their way

Good start: Martin Skrtel fired in after some poor defending to get Liverpool on their way

Match facts

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Gerrard, Lucas, Shelvey, Fernandez Saez, Suarez, Downing.

Subs: Jones, Sahin, Henderson, Carragher, Allen, Sterling, Wisdom.

Booked: Glen Johnson.

Goals: Skrtel 8, Gerrard 36, Downing 51, Suarez 90.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise, Kacaniklic, Karagounis, Baird, Richardson, Dejagah, Berbatov.

Subs: Stockdale, Senderos, Kasami, Briggs, Rodallega, Frei, Tavares.

Booked: Karagounis, Dejagah.

Att: 44,570.

Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table

The 20million signing has been held
up as an example of Liverpool's wastefulness in the transfer market over
the last few years.

Previous manager Kenny Dalglish
certainly did not get his money's worth out of the winger and Rodgers
has so far hardly attempted to as this was only Downing's sixth Premier
League start of his reign.

He has mostly been confined to the
Europa League and has even been played at left-back occasionally as
Rodgers tried to find some use for him.

But in a more familiar advanced
right-wing role he was able to showcase some of his talent with his
first assist and goal in 17 months and 45 league matches at the club.

In fairness Fulham, who have won just
one of their last nine league matches and only one of their last 10 away
from home, were very accommodating and festively came bearing gifts
aplenty.

Martin Jol's side left gaping holes
all over the pitch and, unlike Aston Villa last week who were rewarded
for all their harrying and hustling with a 3-1 win, Liverpool had plenty
of time to take advantage.

As a result they moved up to eighth in the table, their highest position of the season, and five points adrift of the top four.

Unlike the previous week when
Liverpool dominated the opening half-hour but failed to score and paid
the price they got the break they needed early on.

Lashed home: Martin Skrtel's strike flew past Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal

Lashed home: Martin Skrtel's strike flew past Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal

Doubling up: Steven Gerrard tucked home the second goal with a cool finish

Doubling up: Steven Gerrard tucked home the second goal with a cool finish

Gerrard's eighth-minute corner picked
out Skrtel, who had barely moved, and with former Reds full-back John
Arne Riise slow to close down the Slovakia international he brought the
ball down and smashed a volley past Schwarzer.

The centre-back was then required in
the penalty area he is more comfortable in when he slid to block former
Liverpool reserve Alex Kacaniklic's shot.

Daniel Agger's miss from just three
yards – blazing into the top tier of the Anfield Road stand from Luis
Suarez's cross – may have resurrected fears about not being clinical
enough in front of goal.

Leading the way: The Liverpool skipper celebrates his goal with Luis Suarez (and below)

Leading the way: The Liverpool skipper celebrates his goal with Luis Suarez (and below)

Gerrard celebrates with Suarez

Gerrard celebrates with Suarez

Goalkeeper Jose Reina almost making a
mess of Kieran Richardson's swerving shot, diving one way and having to
save with his legs, served as another warning.

But those insecurities were put to bed in the 36th minute with Downing's first significant intervention.

The England international's
brilliantly-disguised reverse pass from the edge of the penalty area
deceived everyone except Gerrard.

Liverpool's captain seized on the
flatfootedness of Fulham's defenders to clip a shot across Schwarzer and
just inside the far post.

Impressive: Brendan Rodgers will be delighted with his side's performance

Impressive: Brendan Rodgers will be delighted with his side's performance

In on the act: Stuart Downing fired home the third

In on the act: Stuart Downing fired home the third

Suso scuffed a shot wide and Suarez
fired straight at the goalkeeper before the interval but within six
minutes of the second half the result was put beyond any doubt.

Gerrard, who had one of his better
days spraying passes all over the field, picked out Downing on the right
wing and he cut inside before blasting home a shot which appeared to
release months of pent-up frustration.

Taking the plaudits: Downing played extremely well as Liverpool romped to victory

Taking the plaudits: Downing played extremely well as Liverpool romped to victory

Down he goes: Suarez falls to the ground

Down he goes: Suarez falls to the ground

The 28-year-old played like a man with
a point to prove at times and saw another blistering drive sail just
over the angle of crossbar and post.

Schwarzer did well to block Gerrard's
close-range shot a Liverpool continued to press, Reina did less well
with Berbatov's long-range effort which squirmed from his grasp and
required Skrtel to clear.

But that was a rare moment of concern
on what was a trouble-free evening as Liverpool recorded only their
fourth home league win of the season when Suarez side-footed home in
added time for his 11th league goal of the season – equalling his tally
from the whole of last season.

Hard times: Dimitar Berbatov (right) was ineffectual as the Cottagers struggled

Hard times: Dimitar Berbatov (right) was ineffectual as the Cottagers struggled

Dimitar Berbatov – why he is thriving at Fulham

You might think he is lazy… but Berbatov has grafted to become the king of Craven Cottage

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UPDATED:

16:20 GMT, 11 December 2012

When Martin Jol pulled off one of the surprises of the transfer window by singing Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United many called it a masterstroke – but some questioned if the Bulgarian would be up for the challenge of playing down further down the Premier League with Fulham.

But 16 games into the Premier League season and Berbatov has more than proved any doubters wrong and has delivered more than even the most optimistic of Fulham fan could have dreamt of- even if he does wear tights.

The former golden boot winner has already chipped in with five goals this season, but he has contributed more than that, he has added style, adventure and leadership.

Man in tights: Dimitar Berbatov was one of Fulham's star performers against Newcastle

Man in tights: Dimitar Berbatov was one of Fulham's star performers against Newcastle

He may not have had his most accurate shooting boots on during Monday night’s 2-1 win over Newcastle, but he more than made up for it with his touch and vision.

And while jumping in the air for high balls does not appeal, why should it, when he simply plucks them out of the air with his feet and then plays the ball on the ground.

His somewhat laid back style of play at Old Trafford has not transferred to Craven Cottage where the Bulgarian seems to be thriving in the senior role at Fulham and is not afraid to get stuck in.

Good ball control: Berbatov keeps the ball in the west London derby against Fulham

Good ball control: Berbatov keeps the ball in the west London derby against Fulham

At times he may seem sulky and surly when the ball is not played to him at exactly the right time in the place that he wants it, but at others, he can be seen actively encouraging the younger players in the team, the likes of Alex Kacaniklic and more recently since his return from injury, Kerim Frei.

But it is not just the younger players; Berbatov makes himself available all around the pitch and for that reason is making more touches than most people remember him doing in his time with both Tottenham and Manchester United.

Berbatov touches v Newcastle.png

Berbatov heatmap v Newcastle.jpg

Getting everywhere: Opta stats show where Berbatov touched the ball against Newcastle and the areas of the pitch he was most active

Berbatov has often been accused of being a stroller, a player who does not move at speed, but watch him for Fulham this season and it is as if he has magnets in his boots.

If any criticisms are to be made, it is that possibly the Fulham players rely too much on him, by passing to him to get them out of trouble, but while he is willing then the problem is not so prevalent.

Naturally he has his own philosophy on how the game should be played, speaking ahead of the game with Newcastle in the programme.

Close control: Berbatov keeps the ball away from Fabricio Coloccini

Close control: Berbatov keeps the ball away from Fabricio Coloccini

He said: 'I like to play with beauty and grace – that has always been my philosophy from a young age.

'That’s how I play and that’s what football is about. Plenty of football players play like this and that is what I want to watch.

'I don’t want to watch players puffing around the pitch. You see games where the ball is flying from one box to another and it makes my neck hurt. That is not football for me.'

He may not want to see players puffing around the pitch, but don’t let that fool you that he is afraid of hard work.

Part of the team: Berbatov celebrates Fulham first goal against Newcastle with his team-mates

Part of the team: Berbatov celebrates Fulham first goal against Newcastle with his team-mates

Against Arsenal last month, with Fulham 2-0 down after 25 minutes he single handily dragged Jol’s team back into the game and earning a point by scoring two and creating the other one for Kacaniklic.

And back to Monday’s game with Newcastle, and it was probably not his favourite type of game, given its fast and frantic nature. But he did his best to lead the team and end Fulham’s seven game winless run.

And Jol was clearly pleased with the Bulgarian’s contribution, he said: ‘He didn’t score but he kept the team together in the hole and I was very happy with him.

'My squad realise that Berbatov is a key player. He is the one that keeps us together.

'He probably covered more ground than ever before. He’s a good number 10. After losing Clint Dempsey, I’m very happy that he came to this club.'

Jol is clearly delighted that his transfer window masterstroke is paying off and while it is, Fulham fans and football fans in general should enjoy it.

Berbatov

Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov ambling star lights up Premier League

As ambling Berbatov lights up the Premier League, here's 10 more strolling stars who bossed the big stage

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UPDATED:

14:32 GMT, 11 December 2012

Dimitar Berbatov has two speeds. Slow and slower.

The Fulham striker is a throwback to the days when strollers were all the rage, playing the game at their speed and a style of play that was more pipe and slippers than blood and thunder.

There aren’t many left in this modern age of speed and dynamism, but Berbatov is in imperious form and showing there is still a place for his ambling style.

Scroll down for video

Berbatov signed for Tottenham in 2006 from German club Bayer Leverkusen and he scored 46 goals for Spurs,

Berbatov signed for Tottenham in 2006 from German club Bayer Leverkusen and he scored 46 goals for Spurs, including this penalty against Chelsea in the 2008 Carling Cup Final, before moving to Old Trafford in 2008

The Bulgarian signed for Manchester United on transfer deadline day in 2008 for a fee of 30million but he fell down the pecking order,

The Bulgarian signed for Manchester United on transfer deadline day in 2008 for a fee of 30million but he eventually fell down the pecking order, despite occasional flashes of brilliance such as this overhead kick against Liverpool

Berbatov has scored five goals this season since moving to Martin Jol's Fulham

Berbatov has scored five goals this season since moving to Martin Jol's Fulham

On a bad day, it would be described as being lazy, but former Manchester United striker Berbatov is having plenty of good days.

He’s a luxury player on top of his
game and he got us thinking of football’s other wandering minstrels. So
here are ten we have loved; let us know if you think of any others in
the comments below.

Matt Le Tissier

Criticised for playing a pass and then standing to admire it, he was good at both. Southampton’s ultimate stroller never left the South Coast, which implied he lacked ambition. But he is revered by Saints fans for his loyalty – like Sir Trevor Brooking at West Ham.

One club men are rare these days, but Le Tissier’s record of 162 league goals in 443 games suggests he was more than passing trend. He could pay and he could stroll.

Le Tissier spent his entire career at Southampton, scoring 162 league goals during his 16 years at the club

Le Tissier spent his entire career at Southampton, scoring 162 league goals during his 16 years at the club

The Guernsey-born forward retired in 2002 having made just eight appearances for England

The Guernsey-born forward retired in 2002 having made just eight appearances for England

Le Tissier's wonder goal against Newcastle in 1993

George Graham

The man they called stroller became a title-winning manager at Arsenal who earned a reputation for his discipline and Seargent Major style. It was at odds with his reputation as a player.

Journalist James Mossop once wrote of Graham’s playing style: ‘Stroller was a famous Scottish footballer who acquired that name through his gentle touch – a tender caressing of the ball as he stroked it around the pitches of the world with an art of his own.’

Graham’s playing career took him strolling from Aston Villa to Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and, finally, to the California Surf.

Graham scored 60 goals during his six years with Arsenal and later went on to manage the Gunners

Graham scored 60 goals during his six years with Arsenal and later went on to manage the Gunners

He was part of Arsenal's double-winning team of 1971, a feat the Gunners repeated in 1998 and 2002

He was part of Arsenal's first ever double-winning team in 1971, a feat the Gunners repeated in 1998 and 2002

Stan Bowles

He’s best summed up in his own words. I was renowned for being arrogant. I wasn't really. I just knew what I was doing on the pitch. When I was on my game I felt unstoppable and I let them know.

I'd go past a fella trying to tackle me, look back at him and say, “Come on, get up, I'll let you have another go”’.

Stan had flair and talent and took his skills from Manchester City to Bury, Crewe, Calrilse, QPr – where he made his name and played in 315 league games – Nottingham Forest, Leyton Orient and Brentford.

He played only five times for England and was similar to Le Tissier in that he was mistrusted by his peers.

Bowles spent seven years at QPR and was part of arguably their greatest ever team when they finished runners-up in 1975/76

Bowles spent seven years at QPR and was part of arguably their greatest ever team when they finished runners-up in 1975/76

What a player: Bowles with model Jenny Clarke in 1976

What a player: Bowles with model Jenny Clarke in 1976

Glenn Hoddle

A brilliant playmaker for Spurs and Monaco, Hoddle was a bit
more than a stroller, but – like Berbatov – he could be annoyingly frustrating
and fade in and out of games.

Hoddle could chip the ball beautifully and scored
a series of sensational goals, played out on Match of the Day, including one
chip of Watford goalkeeper Steve Sherwood that became one of his most famous
strikes.

He later managed England and appeared on Top of the Pops. But the less
said about that, the better.

Hoddle spent 12 years at Spurs and was part of the 1981 FA Cup winning team

Hoddle spent 12 years at Spurs and was part of the 1981 FA Cup winning team

Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle on Top of the Pops

Jan Molby

He was brilliant inside the centre circle… and didn’t seem to go much further than that. He was the Berbatov of the midfield, the Berbatov of the 80s.

But if you look at the video below, you will see he could travel too – with a stunning run the length of the field and a screamer of a finish.

Maybe it’s this run that took so much out of him that he didn’t move much after it. Played over 200 league games for Liverpool before moving to Swansea, where he also managed. Also had spells at Hull and Kidderminster.

Molby joined Liverpool in 1984 and scored 44 league goals in his 12-year spell at Anfield

Molby joined Liverpool in 1984 and he scored 44 league goals in his 12-year spell at Anfield

John Sheridan

Leeds and Republic of Ireland midfielder, who could pass and stroll with the best of them. Showed the best form of his career at Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday in a career that took him strolling around to Manchester City, Forest, Birmingham, Bolton, Doncaster and Oldham too.

Sheridan also played 34 times for his country. He has also managed Oldham and Chesterfield.

Sheridan spent seven years at Sheffield Wednesday and scored a rocket against Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup Final

Sheridan spent seven years at Sheffield Wednesday and scored a rocket against Manchester United in the 1991 League Cup Final

Sheridan's winner in the 1991 League Cup Final

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Sweden’s favourite stroller, who recently destroyed England with four goals including his sensational propeller kick. He plays when he wants… and sometimes if he wants, he can really play.

We all know the CV: he’s strolled from Sweden to Holland to Italy to Spain, back to Italy and now to France and has wandered around (and produced explosive skills) for Malmo, Ajax, Juve, Inter, Barca, Milan and PSG .

Ibrahimovic has played for some of Europe's top clubs including Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, Milan and now Paris Saint Germain

Ibrahimovic has played for some of Europe's top clubs including Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, Milan and now Paris Saint Germain

Zlatan has scored 39 goals for Sweden in 85 caps including the overhead kick from 40 yards against England in November

Zlatan has scored 39 goals for Sweden in 85 caps including the overhead kick from 40 yards against England in November

Liam Brady

The brilliant Arsenal No7 was more than a stroller, but he could stroll. So we included him in our list. Brady played for four Italian clubs, including Juventus and Inter and they loved his style of play.

We did too. He finished his career at West Ham, playing 89 league games there. He strolled a lot at West Ham as his career drew to a close.

He then tried management at Celtic and Brighton, but that didn’t work out. He tried to be an agent, but that didn’t work out, either.

Brady scored 43 league goals in his seven years with the Gunners before moving to Juventus in 1980

Brady scored 43 league goals in his seven years with the Gunners before moving to Juventus in 1980

Adel Taarabt

QPR’s modern-day Stan Bowles. Taarabt has all the skills, but sometimes he doesn’t show them all the time.

When QPR were in the Championship, Jamie Redknapp once wrote of him: ‘Get along to see Adel Taarabt of QPR; there isn't a better footballer outside the Barclays Premier League.'

He sometimes needs a ball of his own, which is why Spurs let him go, but the Moroccan is a magician. Where does he play Everywhere! His positional discipline is not the best, but he has dazzling skills.

Moroccan Taarabt joined QPR in 2009 on loan from Tottenham

Moroccan Taarabt joined QPR in 2009 on loan from Tottenham and he was instrumental in Rangers' promotion season before moving to Loftus Road on a permanent deal in 2010

Gordan Cowans

We can hear the complaints. How can you have Gordon Cowans on the same list as Zlatan Well, Gordon could stroll too and was good at it for Aston Villa and England.

Graham Taylor once picked him for England, ahead of Paul Gascoigne.

But that didn’t end well. Cowans was a playmaker and could slow down the game with his passing skill during his career which saw him take his mullet hairstyle to Villa (three times!), Bari, Derby, Wolves, Sheffield United, Bradford, Stockport and Burnley.

Cowans had three spells at Aston Villa and he also played for Blackburn, Wolves, Derby and Sheffield United

Cowans had three spells at Aston Villa and he also played for Blackburn, Wolves, Derby and Sheffield United

Fernando Torres hasn"t scored in 10 hours and 49 minutes for Chelsea and Rafael Benitez hasn"t yet got the best out of him

The stats staring at Torres: Chelsea's 50m flop barely touches the ball and hasn't scored in almost 11 hours

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UPDATED:

14:29 GMT, 29 November 2012

Chelsea failed to score again. And again there's
Fernando Torres sunk to his knees on the turf. Head despairingly in
hands as he replayed another missed opportunity in his mind.

A second consecutive bore draw, against Fulham last night, left the Blues faithful wondering how, in the space of seven days, Rafael Benitez had transformed them from the Premier League’s most attractive attacking force to a blunt instrument.

Benitez is here to get the best out of the Spain striker but there have been no immediate signs of improvement – he clearly hasn't been instantly snapped out of the malaise he found himself in during the end of Roberto Di Matteo's tenure.

Torres hasn’t scored in the league in 10 hours and 49 minutes now, since he opened the scoring against Norwich on October 6.

You can accomplish a lot in that time –
watch five Shakespeare plays or the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy,
fly to Singapore or drive to the south of France, run three marathons or
make about a thousand cups of tea.

Defining image: The sight of Fernando Torres with his head in his hands has become an all-too-familiar one

Defining image: The sight of Fernando Torres with his head in his hands has become an all-too-familiar one

Golden chance: Torres saw this volley cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes as Chelsea were held 0-0 by Fulham

Golden chance: Torres saw this volley cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes as Chelsea were held 0-0 by Fulham

Imploring: Benitez demands more from his side as they struggle to break down Fulham

Imploring: Benitez demands more from his side as they struggle to break down Fulham

BARREN SPELLS

Drought One

February 6, 2011 – April 23, 2011

15 hours and three minutes

Drought Two

October 6, 2012 –

10 hours and 49 minutes

(and counting…)

Last night, he was outshone by Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov, who has a (largely undeserved) reputation for being languid and lazy.

The Bulgarian had nearly double the touches of Torres – 62 to 34 (see the Touch Maps below) – and his contributions were spread across both penalty areas and both flanks. He outpassed Torres too – by 47 to 23.

The 50m man’s apologists will say
that had Aaron Hughes not blocked his goalbound volley in the second
–half, we wouldn’t be having this debate this morning.

But
looking back over his season, there’s no escaping the reality that
Torres is woefully underperforming. His barren run is creeping nearer
and nearer to the 903 minutes it took him to break his duck after
joining Chelsea in January 2011.

TORRES TOUCHES BERBATOV TOUCHES
Only 34 Almost double 62

Fernando Torres touch map v Fulham

Dimitar Berbatov touch map v Chelsea

Outshone: These touch matches from last night's game compare Fernando Torres (left) and Dimitar Berbatov (right). As you can clearly see, the Fulham forward saw more of the ball (62 touches to 34 for Torres) and was effective in more areas of the field, including both penalty areas and both flanks. Source: Opta

TORRES vs FULHAM

Minutes on Pitch: 90

Goals: 0

Shots: 2

Shooting accuracy: 100%

Goal assists: 0

Chances created: 1

Total passes: 23

Pass completion: 61%

Dribbles and runs: 2

Dribble completion: 0%

Fouls: 1

Offside: 2

Source: Opta

There’s perhaps a crumb of comfort in that Chelsea next face West Ham, the side against whom Torres scored his first goal for the club – on April 23, 2011 – 11 weeks after the 50m cheque was posted to Anfield.

His 1,194 minutes on the pitch in league action this season have yielded four goals, or one every 298.5 minutes. His chance conversion languishes down at 17% and he hasn’t created a goal either.

/11/29/article-2240291-1642B6EF000005DC-379_634x422.jpg” width=”634″ height=”422″ alt=”Head-to-head: Dimitar Berbatov (left) had a much more productive evening than Torres ” class=”blkBorder” />

Head-to-head: Dimitar Berbatov (left) had a much more productive evening than Torres

TORRES IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE THIS SEASON

Appearances: 14

Minutes on pitch: 1,194

Goals: 4

Minutes per goal: 298.5

Shots: 23

Shooting accuracy: 61%

Chance conversion: 17%

Goal assists: 0

Chances created: 17

Total passes: 291

Pass completion: 70%

Dribbles and runs: 51

Dribble completion: 39%

Fouls: 20

Offside: 15

Yellow cards: 1

Red Cards: 1

Source: Opta

A side that just last month looked like a well-oiled goal machine is now spluttering to a complete standstill, with another concern for Benitez being the reliance on Torres to supply the goals.

Had he been in the job a year earlier, he could have fallen back on the reliable Didier Drogba (13 goals and four assists in 2011-2012) to offer a finish to the abundant chances coming from the midfield.

But Drogba is on the opposite side of the world and his only manifestation at the Bridge is a bright orange banner perched on the upper tier that reads in block black capitals: ‘DROGBA LEGEND.’

It can’t help Torres that whenever he misses a chance, he glances up and sees the colourful tribute.

Not forgotten: The new tribute banner to Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge

Not forgotten: The new tribute banner to Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge

Benitez was in ebullient mood despite the derby draw with Fulham, suggesting that Chelsea can still win the title and that, on another night, Torres would have helped himself to two or three.

‘It wasn’t easy for him, or Hazard or Oscar,’ he said. ‘We were on top of them, regaining the game higher up the pitch, and might have won it in the last minute.’

But on a night when the home faithful again made their frustrations at Benitez known, there appears little, if any, appetite for a Rafalution – or his main henchman.

TORRES PREMIER LEAGUE COMPARISON – LIVERPOOL v CHELSEA

Liverpool

Games played: 102

Minutes played: 7886

Goals: 65

Minutes per goal: 121.3

Total shots: 291

Minutes per shot: 27.1

Shooting accuracy: 48.8%

Shot conversion rate: 22.3%

Assists: 12

Chelsea

Games played: 60

Minutes played: 3860

Goals: 11

Minutes per goal: 350.9

Total shots: 86

Minutes per shot: 44.9

Shooting accuracy: 45.35%

Shot conversion rate: 12.8%

Assists: 6

Source: Opta

Chelsea 0 Fulham 0 – match report: Rafa Benitez"s men fire blanks again

Chelsea 0 Fulham 0: Rafa's men fire blanks again as Benitez can't inspire Torres and co

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 28 November 2012

Rafael Benitez was booed off instead of on to the field tonight after Chelsea produced a second straight bore draw in the west London derby against Fulham.

Three days after Benitez's first game in charge of the Blues saw him endure a savage reception from his new club's supporters, he was unable to turn the jeers into cheers as they slipped further off the pace in the Barclays Premier League.

And, as on Sunday against Manchester City, they could have easily lost against a Fulham side who had the better of the chances and a striker in Dimitar Berbatov who completely outshone opposite number Fernando Torres.

Frustration: Chelsea striker Fernando Torres (right) gestures to referee Anthony Taylor

Frustration: Chelsea striker Fernando Torres (right) gestures to referee Anthony Taylor

Shadow of his former self: Torres (second left) gets in a weak shot on goal

Shadow of his former self: Torres (second left) gets in a weak shot on goal

Match facts

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Romeu, Ramires, Hazard (Marin 82), Oscar, Bertrand (Mata 63), Torres.

Subs not used: Turnbull, Mikel, Moses, Ferreira, Cahill.

Booked: Ivanovic, Romeu, Luiz

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise, Duff, Diarra (Baird 64), Sidwell, Karagounis (Frei 73), Rodallega (Petric 83), Berbatov.

Subs not used: Etheridge, Kelly, Kasami, Dejagah.

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Attendance: 41,707

The latest Premier League fixtures, tables and results

/11/28/article-2239930-16425393000005DC-592_634x457.jpg” width=”634″ height=”457″ alt=”Protests: Chelsea fans make their feeling known about new boss Rafa Benitez once again” class=”blkBorder” />

Protests: Chelsea fans make their feeling known about new boss Rafa Benitez once again

Rafa out: A Chelsea fan in the stands shows his disgust at the appointment of interim manager Benitez

Rafa out: A Chelsea fan in the stands shows his disgust at the appointment of interim manager Benitez

David Luiz's skied free-kick was the
first shot at goal after 25 minutes, the creativity of the rested Juan
Mata becoming more and more conspicuous by its absence.

Some speedy football from Oscar
finally created a real chance just before the half hour but Torres's
weak shot on the turn from Cesar Azpilicueta's cross was straight at
Mark Schwarzer.

Benitez said yesterday Torres needed
to get down the gym and he was given a lesson in brute power moments
later by Berbatov, who forcefully shrugged off the recalled Oriol Romeu.

Torres' flimsiness aside, Chelsea were
beginning to get round the back and more than one cross prompted more
than one desperate lunge.

And after a goalless first half, there
was another crucial tackle shortly after the restart when Mahamadou
Diarra stopped Oscar finishing off Hazard's pass.

But Chelsea could have fallen behind
twice in quick succession inside 10 minutes, an errant offside flag
rescuing them after Berbatov perfectly timed his run on to Diarra's
flighted ball, and Petr Cech saving from John Arne Riise following a
flowing breakaway.
Under the microscope: Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez took charge of Chelsea for the second time

Under the microscope: Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez took charge of Chelsea for the second time

Powerless: Benitez grows more animated on the sidelines as Chelsea failed to find the target

Powerless: Benitez grows more animated on the sidelines as Chelsea failed to find the target

Ramires and Giorgios Karagounis both
sent shots too close to either goalkeeper before Mata finally arrived,
Ryan Bertrand making way.

Fulham sent on Chris Baird for Diarra
before Mata showed Chelsea what they had been missing with a corner
glanced wide by Branislav Ivanovic.

An increasingly-frustrated Ivanovic
was booked for disputing a free-kick, while Torres's travails continued
to the extent that supporters began venting their frustration.

Crowded out: Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard (centre) and Steve Sidwell (right) battle for the ball

Crowded out: Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard (centre) and Steve Sidwell (right) battle for the ball

Over the top: Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov skips away from the challenge of Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu

Over the top: Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov skips away from the challenge of Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu

He, Oscar and Hazard wasted a great
chance to strike after fine harrying from Azpilicueta, with Romeu
following Ivanovic into the book for upending Berbatov.

The Bulgarian's coolness helped win a
dangerous free-kick that got Luiz cautioned before more composed play
set up Riise for a fierce drive Cech only just repelled.

In between that, Kerim Frei replaced Karagounis.

Tussle: Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand (right) is closed down by Giorgos Karagounis

Tussle: Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand (right) is closed down by Giorgos Karagounis

Torres finally found some space with
just over 10 minutes remaining but his angled volley after good chest
control was cleared by Aaron Hughes and may have been going wide anyway.

Frei had a dubious penalty appeal
turned down before Marko Marin was handed his Premier League debut in
place of Hazard and Mladen Petric came on for Hugo Rodallega.

With time running out, the crowd finally turned their anger on Benitez, who was urging his team forward.

Dutifully, they spent the closing
moments camped in the Fulham box but despite a succession of blocked
shots and other near misses, they could not force a breakthrough.

Chance: The ball is played into Torres inside the box...

Chance: The ball is played into Torres inside the box…

... but the striker's volley flies harmlessly wide of Mark Schwarzer's goal

… but the striker's volley flies harmlessly wide of Mark Schwarzer's goal

More misery: Torres is left to rue another missed chance as his goalless run continued

More misery: Torres is left to rue another missed chance as his goalless run continued