While Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf was the hero in Bolton’s 2-0 defeat of Sunderland, a result that ensured the Wanderers will remain in England’s top flight, Fulham found their savior in the form of a U.S. international / ex-member of the Columbus CrÃ¼e, writes the Independent’s Nick Townsend :
Joy unconfined down by the Thames. An almost skittish Roy Hodgson, belying his image as an elder statesman of the game, elatedly kicked out at a balloon as some of his players collapsed in a heap of exhaustion and delight. Anyone would think they had preserved their Premier League status. Well, they have not yet, but after this dismissal of a desperately disappointing Birmingham, it is now theirs to lose after a third win in four games “ and their first back-to-back Premier League victories since September 2006 “ propelled them into the safety zone.
Win, at FA Cup finalists Portsmouth next Sunday, and they are safe. Anything but and they will still be sweating, along with Birmingham, whose destiny is no longer under their control. “After that Liverpool game [the only blot on Fulham’s recent record, when they lost 2-0], I did think it would take some kind of miracle to get this chance.” Hodgson conceded. “Now, I feel relieved and I feel satisfaction with the team’s performance, with their mental courage and ability to stand up and be counted when we really needed to do that.”
Hodgson has never experienced relegation, and his captain Brian McBride (above, left) ensured that his manager’s CV could well remain free of that blot. The American striker’s headed goal was due reward for Fulham’s second-half endeavours, accompanied by the exhortations of a frenzied crowd. A late second from substitute Erik Nevland was a welcome afterthought. However, the Fulham manager warned: “There was euphoria at the end, and, I’m very happy, but it isn’t finished yet. This could still turn into despair.”