Claudio Ranieri at a loss for words as self-destructive Fulham fall to 'strange' defeat at Burnley
Two own goals in quick succession overshadow Schurrle's wondergoal as Fulham's search for a first away win continues
Perhaps this will be the ignominy after the ecstasy for Claudio Ranieri.
No Premier League-winning manager has ever been demoted from the division, but while the Italian inherited a Leicester City team tipped for the drop and turned them into champions, his Fulham contrived to make a different sort of history to render relegation more likely.
They became the first side since the division’s records began to concede twice to a team who failed to register a shot on target.
“What we can do?” asked Ranieri rhetorically, deserted by the fates that once seemed on his side. “It's unbelievable.”
If it made Burnley’s third straight win fluky, Fulham were symbolically self-destructive, luckless and hapless as they scored two own goals in three minutes. While the visiting fans chorused that Burnley were going “down with the Fulham,” winning a six-pointer puts them seven ahead of relegation rivals.
“The table is a good question,” said Ranieri; extricating Fulham from its bottom three looks ever harder for a club who authorised a £100 million (Dh472m) summer spending spree and who were ejected from the FA Cup by League Two Oldham.
If the key to survival lies in improving Fulham’s dreadful defensive statistics and their wretched record on the road, this was doubly demoralising. Ranieri selected five defenders – a sixth, Calum Chambers, was in midfield – but two of them scored for Burnley in a vignette of why Fulham have the division’s most porous rearguard.
They led for the first time on their travels in four months, but remain the lone team in the Premier and Football Leagues without an away win.
Few relegation-threatened teams boast a player who set up the winner in a World Cup final but the talent in Fulham’s ranks was illustrated by a magnificent piece of control and a still better volley from Andre Schurrle.
“A great goal,” said Ranieri. But errors outnumbered examples of excellence. Fulham lacked structure, cohesion and, at times, basic competence, summed up when Cyrus Christie accidentally volleyed the ball onto his own chest and, after Chris Wood headed against the post, Burnley struck twice in freak fashion.
“This period is very strange,” added Ranieri in an understatement. Twice Fulham redirected Jeff Hendrick’s deliveries into the net. The first was a shot from the Irishman, diverted in off the unfortunate Joe Bryan’s need. The second was a cross, converted in comical fashion by Dennis Odoi, with a header.
“I hope they give the first to Jeff because I think it is going in,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche. “We have had a bit of luck today but we haven't had much this season."
“We deserve minimum a draw,” insisted Ranieri. The subsequent events underlined the sense Fulham are capable of scoring sufficient goals. Calum Chambers headed against the bar and the influential substitute Luciano Vietto had a shot cleared off the line by James Tarkowski and a stinging drive parried by Tom Heaton.
Ranieri rued Tarkowski’s intervention. “The episode changed the music,” he said. But the soundtrack to Fulham’s season may be in a minor key.
Updated: January 12, 2019 10:33 PM