Saturday, 16 August 2008

01: Hull City 2 - 1 Fulham - 16/08/2008

Although every Hull City supporter's ambitions were achieved one May afternoon at Wembley, it's clear that the club are determined to make new, even more unlikely ambitions come to fruition if our opening Premier League game is anything to go by.

The Tigers launched their campaign with the world watching and listening and the cynics lazily expecting a capitulation on a par with that of Derby County last season.

Well, yah boo sucks to you, you cloud-headed ignorami. We've already equalled Derby in one single game.

That's because we won.

A near-capacity 24,000+ crowd welcomed deafeningly a Tigers side, resplendent in their new stripes, just before 3pm. By eight minutes past, the obvious early nerves had caught up with us and Fulham, pretty but pensive, took the lead.

A cross from the right from the effectual Jimmy Bullard prompted Michael Turner, last season's Player of the Year, to mistime his headed clearance and Korean dangerman Seol Ki-Hyeon's forehead connected first, diligently glancing the ball beyond Boaz Myhill's right hand.

By this time, Simon Davies had already missed with a volley and as Fulham's throttlehold on the match tightened, new signing Zoltan Gera thighed a shot into the crowd as the defence panicked around Davies' curling cross.

The Tigers settled a little more. Certainly a good chance had gone begging when Mark Schwarzer, the big Aussie keeper signed from Middlesbrough who played appallingly in an FA Cup replay against us two years ago, denied Brazilian debutant Geovanni with a smart save and then picked his enormous Antipodean frame up to get in the way of history-making skipper Ian Ashbee's follow-up.

Geovanni then made a spot more history in the city of Hull when he took Sam Ricketts' pass and, with Fulham opening, Red Sea-like, in front of him, cantered into a shooting position before delivering a marvellous left-footer into the far corner.

The noise was eruptive, explosive, a sound enveloped in relief and elation. And Fulham barely squeaked again afterwards.

Half time came and went, and City were more than satisfied.

The second half was a stirring affair. It was clear, even allowing for Fulham's status last season of survivors through meagre goal difference and no more, City were by far more ravenous for the three points. It was one-way traffic.

The chances were all created by the Tigers. Ashbee fed Nick Barmby on the left whose cross was all set to be planted home by Geovanni's left foot volley-in-waiting, but he studded it into the turf and wide. A waste, but gratifyingly Fulham were not the team to exploit such wasted moments - something which will not be repeated by more stringent opposition as the season prolongs.

George Boateng, by some distance as effective as Geovanni despite not having the obvious stand-out quality, then sent fellow debutant Marlon King away and as the new striker shaped to cut in and shoot, Brede Hangeland managed to put a heroically late instep in the way of the ball.

Onwards and forwards came the Tigers, with Richard Garcia firing a bouncing and awkward cross shot towards the far post from King's ball, with Schwarzer doing well to keep a grasp.

Phil Brown rang the changes, ushering on all three of his permitted substitutes before his well-spoken Fulham counterpart had chosen even one. Another debutant, Peter Halmosi, replaced the tiring Barmby; then Caleb Folan replaced King and finally Craig Fagan, earning the most remarkable second go at the Premier League after playing for that toe-curling Derby side last year, swapped with Garcia. And it was the latter two who combined with nine minutes left to complete a stunning day's work for the Tigers.

Fagan hunted down England wannabe Paul Konchesky, forced him into a stumble and then - as the crowd expected him to shoot straight at the keeper - he nonchalantly played the ball across Schwarzer and the last defender for Folan to glide it in, just beyond the stretch of Aaron Hughes' leg.

Boateng then suffered two injuries - not many players get carried off twice - meaning the Tigers ended with ten men and played through five minutes of added time, but the win was sealed and the sound of jubilation which greeted the three shrills was akin to that of Wembley. Rapture, relief and another chapter in this remarkable run of great occasions which Hull City keep churning out.

Hull City: Myhill, Ricketts, Turner, Gardner, Dawson, Garcia (Fagan 74), Ashbee, Boateng, Barmby (Halmosi 62), Geovanni, King (Folan 70). Subs not used: Warner, Marney, Windass, Mendy.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy (Andreasen 85), Ki-Hyeon (Nevland 85), Bullard, Gera, Zamora (Dempsey 81). Subs not used: Zuberbuhler, Teymourian, Stoor, Kallio.