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12 April 2014

Canaries away effort undone by first-half Rodallega goal.

A FIRST-HALF goal from Hugo Rodallega was enough to see Fulham take the points at Craven Cottage with a 1-0 victory.

The Canaries battled hard and saw several good opportunities denied, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer both thwarted by excellent saves from Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, while a Robert Snodgrass free-kick rattled the bar. 

But it was the Colombian's 40th-minute goal from a Lewis Holty set-piece which proved the difference and saw Fulham take all three points from the critical relegation battle.

Neil Adams made six changes to the side from last weekend's defeat to West Brom at Carrow Road.

Into the starting eleven came Michael Turner and Leroy Fer for the first time for weeks. Both returned from hamstring injuries, Turner's injured against Crystal Palace on New Year's Day and Fer missing since the beginning of March.

Steven Whittaker, Bradley Johnson, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond were also named in the first eleven, with City setting up in a diamond formation.

The game kicked off at 3:07pm, along with all other Barclays Premier League fixtures, to pay respect to those fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago. A minute's silence was impeccably observed by all in the ground.

The opening exchanges saw Kasami drag a shot wide and then, on six minutes, Stockdale had to be alert at the other end to push away Redmond's angled drive from the right.

Jonny Howson then did well to take a Steven Whittaker cross and hit a shot, but John Heitinga got his body in the way. On 13 minutes Fulham responded through Hugo Rodallega, who made a run down the right and placed his shot across goal and wide of the far post.

The Colombian forward then had an opportunity to get on the end of a cross but his header was not strong enough to trouble Ruddy who collected comfortably.

The game was opening up with both teams looking to attack, but both defences stood firm in a tense, closely-matched encounter.

The best chance of the game so far fell to the Canaries when Martin Olsson's ball was met by van Wolsfwinkel, but David Stockdale shocked the City striker and everyone else in the ground with an instinctive world-class stop to deny the Dutchman. The corner then came in and the former England youngster pulled off yet another save to deny Fer, and Bradley Johnson could only hit the rebound just wide.

Just after the half-hour the Canaries were awarded a free-kick. Fer was initially booked for taking the set-piece too early, but Snodgrass then stepped up and curled a great effort which agonisingly hit the crossbar and bounced out for a goal-kick.

But on 40 minutes Fulham were ahead through Rodallega. The hosts were awarded a free-kick on the far left when Mike Dean adjudged Steven Whittaker to have fouled Kieran Richardson. The ball was lofted in by Lewis Holtby, Steve Sidwell got the slightest of touches and the ball found its way to the striker to hit home from close range.

Half-time: Fulham 1, Norwich City 0

City had a good spell in the opening exchanges - Snodgrass and Fer playing a one-two on the edge of the area but the Dutchman's shot was straight at Stockdale. Rodallega then had an opportunity to extend Fulham's lead when he headed a corner goalwards, only for Olsson to deny him on the line.

The Swede was then heavily involved at the other end when he broke into the box to latch onto a Johnson pass, but his touch took him across the area and although Snodgrass raced in, his attempt to bundle the ball home was denied by several Fulham defenders, after which the the referee awarded a goalkick against protests from City's players and fans.

City's first change came on the hour when van Wolfswinkel was replaced by Gary Hooper. 

The Canaries were continuing to press and Neil Adams looked to make another offensive change, bringing on Wes Hoolahan for the tiring Leroy Fer after 68 minutes, while Felix Magath looked to shore up his midfield with England international Scott Parker replacing Holtby.

On 73 minutes Hoolahan found Hooper on the edge of the box and his shot was deflected over the bar for a corner. Snodgrass' delivery was then met by Turner but Rodallega got in a decisive header to turn it around the post.

Four minutes later and Ruddy was called into action, making a good low stop from Sidwell. With 11 minutes left, Adams turned to 19-year-old Josh Murphy in an attempt to inject pace into City's attacks, the youngster replacing Jonny Howson.

And it was Murphy who the ball fell to just outside of the area, but although he got good contact on the ball his curling effort sailed just wide.

The Canaries continued to press, but couldn't find a way through a disciplined Fulham defence. As they threw men forward Fulham almost capitalised through Rodallega on the break, before Snodgrass felled the striker as he tracked back, earning a yellow card. It would be prove to be the last meaningful action of the game.

Full-time: Fulham 1, Norwich City 0

Norwich City: Ruddy, Martin (c), Whittaker, Johnson, Turner, Snodgrass, Howson (Josh Murphy 79), van Wolfswinkel (Hooper 60), Fer (Hoolahan 68), Redmond, Olsson. Subs not used: Bunn, Garrido, R. Bennett, Tettey. 

Fulham: Stockdale, Heitinga, Hangeland (c), Sidwell, Kasami (Dejagah 58), Diarra (Kvist 84), Holtby (Parker 68), Richardson, Rodallega, Riether, Amorebieta. Subs not used: Stekelnburg, Arne Riise, Roberts, Bent

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