Hull City 2-1 Fulham

Last updated : 16 August 2008 By Rick Skelton

We are Premier League. After all the talking and the speculation, today, it was back to the football. We've waited 104 years for this day and the game was well worth the wait. It was an excellent game of football, played at tremendous pace for the most part. The Tigers overcame their early jitters to stamp their authority on the proceedings.

City started with the 4-4-1-1 that's been in use throughout pre-season. Marlon King started as the one up front with Geovanni playing off him. Perhaps surprisingly, Nick Barmby started on the left. Ian Ashbee, Andy Dawson and Boaz Myhill completed the journey from Division 3 in 2004/05 to the top table in 2008/09. City were nervous for the first 20 minutes. We gave the ball away too easily, failed to get it under control and looked a little bit surprised at the tempo. Fulham had pace in attack, with Zamora and Seol providing great pace and movement. Michael Turner struggled to get anywhere near them. Fulham closed us down quickly and forced countless errors. Despite all that, City should have taken the lead but Schwarzer made a terrific save to keep out a Geovanni header. Fulham punished us almost immediately, converting their first chance of the season. It was a poor goal for City to concede. Barmby was caught wandering off the left wing allowing Bullard and Pantsil to double team Ricketts. Pantsil made the dummy run and Bullard crossed from deep, it was a sweet cross and Seol got in front of Turner and flicked a header past Boaz. Shortly after, Davies sent a superb volley flying over from a well worked set piece. Fulham were on top, City were rattled, still giving up possession and struggling to cope with the pace. We made poor decisions, which also cost us possession time and again.

Just when it looked like the game could run away from us, Geo received the ball 35 yards out, turned, ran at their defence and curled a beautiful left footer into the far corner. It was a super goal and it changed the game. Everyone seemed to get a lift from it. We stopped chasing the game and started to take more care of the ball. Ash and Boateng, who'd been a bit overrun, started to pick up all the loose balls and began reading Fulham's passes. They started to dominate. Bullard and Murphy had strolled around for half an hour, playing pretty passes and suddenly, Ash and the Boat were in their faces and were getting the better of them. Garcia worked incredibly hard to curtail any threat down his side, and then Barmby stared to stick to the left touchline too, stopping Pantsil from bombing forward, which he'd done at will for the first half hour. We didn't mess about with the ball, whenever possible; it went in diagonally towards King, who did a great job of holding up the ball. The first half ended evenly and despite the possession, Fulham hadn't threatened our goal for quite a while. On half time, City put together their best passing move of the game and confidence was growing.

City marched out for the second half, looking like they believed they could win and looking ready to die trying. Fulham were rattled. In the first half, they'd played their way out of defence. Now, they were happy just to clear. The clearances where easily won by Turner and Gardner and we then picked up the loose balls and launched another attack. It was a vicious circle for Fulham. Turner powered a header just over from a corner. He should've scored. Geovanni somehow missed from 2 yards after good work from Barmby. He should've scored too. King just failed to trick Hangeland twice when he got on the end of good moves. At the other end, Gera sliced wide when he should have done better, but Fulham weren't creating much. It left you thinking it might be one of those days, Fulham has shown they had enough quality to break away at pace. Phil Brown started to make substitutions. We were playing well and the spine of the team was looking very strong after the early start. The gaffer was positive; he kept the shape of the team and introduced fresh legs in key areas, out wide and up front. Halmosi replaced Barmby, then Folan came on for King and, lastly, Fagan replaced Garcia. The three subs all had a great influence on the game and settled in quickly. With nine minutes remaining, Fagan chased a long ball, Konchesky won the race but rather than putting the ball into row Z, he decided to dally and then fall over. Fagan nicked the ball off him, ran in on goal and as the angle tightened he calmly slipped the ball across for Folan, who slid it into the bottom left hand corner. Cue jubilation. We expected to face the Alamo in the last 8 minutes, plus 5 added on, but it never really happened. We were excellent at the back, calm in possession and had enough pace in attack to stop them throwing caution to the wind. We finished with 10 men, as Boateng limped off, but withstood the 'pressure' pretty easily.

Myhill had a fairly comfortable afternoon. He didn't have a save to make and he dealt well with the crosses he could take. There were a couple of times that he could have communicated better with Gardner and Dawson to give them a better chance of diffusing situations. We relied on his kicking a bit too much, but he was pretty accurate, giving King and Fagan a good chance of winning the ball in the air.

Gardner was the pick of the defence, enjoying a very comfortable afternoon. He did a good job of marshalling everyone, looked calm in possession, covered the ground quickly and read the signs of danger. He wasn't as dominant in the air as Turner is though. Turner had a tough opening, looking well off the pace. However, he grew into the game and had Zamora's measure. Ricketts looked most nervous of the eleven starters. Three times he let the ball run over the touchline during promising moves, looked panicked in possession and struggled with Seol and Gera. He was booked for a cynical foul on Gera. He looked better in the second half and even started to get forward. Dawson looked vulnerable early on, but Barmby offered him no protection. Overall though, he didn't look out of his depth. He kept things simple and took up good covering positions. He made one superb run forward and turned Pantsil inside out, but unfortunately, he just lost his footing when he might have run past him. He was booked for a stupid challenge on Seol when the Korean was going nowhere in the corner.

There was a lot of focus on Ashbee today so he needed to perform. I thought he did pretty well in general. In the first 20, he was as guilty as anyone of giving the ball away and was too slow in possession. He grew into the pace of the game though and a good block in our box, a crunching tackle on Bullard, and several interceptions did wonders for his confidence. While Boateng was a bit more all action, Ash protected the back four. He got better in possession, but we didn't have that much; we were looking to get the ball forward quickly. Boateng was a revelation. He covered an incredible distance and defensively, he made great tackles and read their midfield like a book. Going forward, he showed lots of quality and really good feet. You don't play at the level he has for as long as he has without being a top footballer and he was the best footballer on the pitch today. He went down heavily and was then helped off in stoppage time. It would be incredibly cruel on him and the team (and the fans!) if we lost him for any real period of time. Barmby showed flashed of quality, but looked a bit out of his depth. He struggled with the pace and wandered off the wing far too often, leaving Dawson exposed. Most of his input involved getting a toe to the ball here and there. It was surely not enough to start next week. Garcia recovered from his jitters to have a stellar game. He made poor decisions early on but got himself stuck into the game and came out on top of Gera easily. Halmosi did well off the bench. He worked hard to cover Dawson, which is something I feared wouldn't happen and was technically very good on the ball. He did a great job of running the clock down late on.

I thought Marlon King was excellent. He only had a couple of training sessions with the team but didn't look to be on a different wavelength. He worked hard, first of all, just like Campbell last season. He harassed defenders and forced the goalkeeper to kick hurriedly. His touch was superb and he held the ball up to allow others to join the attack. He did okay in the air against the giant Hangeland and he made really neat runs off Geo. If he'd had the confidence to pull the trigger a bit sooner, he might've scored twice in the second half. Speaking of Geovanni, he was excellent too. He played perfectly in the hole. He made himself available for the ball and also made runs in behind. He scored a super goal at a crucial time but his all-round game was equally impressive. Fagan and Folan came off the bench and really impressed. Both were sharp and slotted into the game quickly. Folan caused them a real problem physically. Fagan used his pace to break out quickly on the right. His first two breaks were let down by poor delivery. The third time, he made the goal.

Full marks to Phil Brown today. He put out a good side. He took a risk on Marlon King and it worked out well and he got his substitutions spot on. The referee, Peter Walton, had a really good game. He was a bit inconsistent with his yellow cards but got most things right. The assistants weren't any better than those in the bottom division though. They let the game down.

Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 6, Dawson 7, Turner 6, Gardner 7, Garcia 7 (Fagan), Barmby 5 (Halmosi), Boateng 8, Ashbee 7, Geovanni 8, King 7 (Folan).