Matin Jol's refusal to take the FA Cup lightly by weakening his first team leads Fulham to a 4-0 defeat of Charlton, courtesy of Clint Dempsey's hat-trick.
Fulham prove more capable than Charlton Athletic
CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0
Fulham Dempsey 8’, 61’, 81’ (pen); Duff 87’
Man of the match
David Stockdale (Fulham)
LONDON // Making a Europa League final can change a club. Stretching into touching distance of serious silverware produces both belief and expectation. Suddenly there is a sense that every cup competition is a genuine opportunity to run all the way.
Since Roy Hodgson, their pervious manager, drilled the club into tight efficiency, Fulham have become capable of undoing any opponent.
Experienced, organised and with sufficient creativity, they are not a team to be drawn against in cups.
Neither is their current manager allowed much leeway in them. This convincing score line, complete with a Clint Dempsey hat-trick, was partly a product of a pressure on Martin Jol to deliver. Plus the Dutchman's refusal to take the FA Cup lightly by weakening his first team.
"I wasn't here for the last four, five years, so I still thought the FA Cup was the best competition in the world," said Jol. "For a club like Fulham, the FA Cup is not sacred, but it is one of the best competitions.
"Four-nil is a good result. Especially if you see the other team. We knew before the game they had a very good side with a great mentality. They make a habit of winning games."
"Calm" is the first word people use to describe Chris Powell. Then they talk of a popularity with his players, the ease with which he communicates, his intelligence on the training pitch and an astuteness in the transfer market. In a nation painfully short on domestic managerial talent, Powell's qualities stand out.
The Charlton team he and assistant Alex Dyer have rebuilt with 19 summer signings arrived at Craven Cottage have a five-point advantage at the top of League One. In 13 fixtures going back to mid-October, they had suffered just one defeat, and those results have been earned by an appealing passing game.
Both Danny Murphy - a friend of Powell's from their time together at The Valley - and Jol used their programme notes to emphasise Charlton's threat. And though Fulham took the lead through Dempsey after eight minutes, that threat was evident up until the home side made the game safe on the hour.
Powell's players held their shape after the goal, harried opponents who over-held possession and worked the ball forward with precise, low passing, forcing goalkeeper David Stockdale into four fine saves to keep Fulham ahead. The quality of Jol's midfield, however, was to prove too much for them.
Bryan Ruiz exploited space down his new position on the left wing to find an unmarked Dempsey. From 10 yards out, the Texan's chipped finish bypassed John Sullivan, the Charlton keeper.
Stockdale was to thwart Bradley Wright-Phillips once more before the score line took on an unfair hue. With 10 minutes remaining, Ruiz won a penalty with which Dempsey claimed his third. Substitute Damian Duff netted the fourth.
"What today shows is you've got to be clinical when you get the half chance," Powell said. "I feel 4-0 is quite harsh because we did have moments of quality. It was a one-off game, a game we earned the right to be at, but it's more about the 22 games that remain for my club now."
FULHAM NOT SELLING JOHNSON
Queens Park Rangers have failed with a £2 million (Dh11.6m) offer for Andrew Johnson.
Though 31 year old's contract expires at the end of the season, and he has declined the offer of an extension, Fulham insist they will not sell for less than £5m.