Fulham grab late win as Bobby Zamora sinks Blackburn from the spot

So this is what Mark Hughes has been pining for.

Fulham grab late win as Bobby Zamora sinks Blackburn from the spot Fulham's fans had resigned themselves to a 15th draw in 29 league games after their side had twice let Damien Duff goals be cancelled out by Grant Hanley and then Junior Hoilett. But Bobby Zamora, on as a substitute for his first league appearance since September, sealed victory from the penalty spot in the 89th minute and consigned the visitors to a fifth consecutive away league defeat.

"It was great to see Bobby back," Hughes said. "He showed great character to grab the ball and dispatch the penalty."

If Zamora's return to centre stage was a welcome one, Mark Clattenburg's presence alongside him was less so. The referee followed up missing a Wayne Rooney elbow last Saturday by overlooking a similar incident when Stephen Nzonzi lashed out at Duff. Clattenburg then sent off Gaël Givet for aggressively questioning his decisive penalty decision after the final whistle – leaving the Blackburn manager, Steve Kean, to suggest an enforced break for the referee.

"They could take a look at that, because when you have to make enough big decisions it puts you under the spotlight. I don't know if that's an option or whether when he comes back that would intensify the pressure," he said.

"When the referees do start coming in [to press conferences] and answering questions, that'd be good for the game. Because Mark [Hughes] will give his opinion on the penalty and I will give my account of it, but the referees need to start clearing the grey areas up.

"I've asked Mark [Clattenburg] for his take on the penalty incident and he said that Grant Hanley had both hands around Aaron Hughes. He felt it was an aggressive bit of play and that's why he gave the penalty.

"It's [the referee's] interpretation of the initial incident and I have to respect that. We respect his decision. Referees have the hardest job in the world."

Hughes said: "I can see why Steve might have been a little bit aggrieved about some of the decisions, although I think it was a fair result. There was a clear penalty when Andy Johnson was brought down. There were a number of incidents when decisions might have gone our way … but we are delighted with three points and it was a fair outcome."

Fulham took half an hour before they could muster their first clear sight on target, with Clint Dempsey feeding into Dickson Etuhu's feet, and the midfielder's snap shot was gathered at the second attempt by Paul Robinson.

But Robinson's yips carried through to the next attack, and this time it was fatal. Duff spotted a vacuum in the Blackburn left-back area, collected Etuhu's crisp pass and then cut on to his left foot before firing through and beyond Robinson at the goalkeeper's near post.

If Etuhu may have had the feeling that the ball was following him then it was confirmed shortly before the break, as he twice found possession on the edge of the Fulham area but gifted it straight back to Blackburn. Feet from both sides shuffled, bodies scuffled but the outcome was Hanley's first career goal, aided by a significant deflection off Brede Hangeland.

It was a tough blow for Fulham, who had taken their brief superiority for granted, but Duff remained a nuisance, buzzing in from the right wing shortly after the break and forcing Chris Samba to deflect on to his own crossbar.

His second goal was simple enough but perfectly executed, as he collected a short feed from Moussa Dembélé and hammered a crisp drive to Robinson's left for his third goal in two games.

"I thought he [Duff] was excellent. Every time he had the ball he took players on and made a real difference," Hughes said.

Hughes was less forthcoming on Fulham's defensive affliction, all too apparent when Blackburn equalised for a second time, with Hoilett volleying home after Jason Roberts had made a nuisance of himself in the six-yard box.

Zamora made an instant impact, however, and could have won a penalty with his first touch when he fired a free-kick against Mame Biram Diouf's elbow. More significantly, the striker gave his side a focal point, and in the end, a cutting edge.


CHRIS LLOYD, Observer reader It was fabulous that Zamora came back and scored like that – he looks so good. Duff was absolutely superb; he's been back to his best since Christmas and is still going. Zamora looked sharp, confident, he makes such a difference for us. The referee was absolutely terrible – Clattenburg had a shocking game. Blackburn looked a bit dirty at the back and he kept waving play on so they kept at it. Hangeland had a good game despite the first goal going off his head. Kakuta shone as well in a cameo – quick, good touches. Mark Hughes is doing a really good job – let's hope we can get into the top 10.

The fan's player ratings Schwarzer 6; Baird 6, Hughes 7, Hangeland 7, Salcido 6; Duff 9, Etuhu 6, Murphy 6 (Zamora 8 70), Dempsey 7; Dembélé 7 (Kakuta 7 78); A Johnson 6

MIKE DELAP, Blackburn.VitalFootball.co.uk Robbery I would say. Quite how the ref could see an offence in all of that, I'd be hard-pressed to say, but if you give that you should give another five or six during the game. It's especially hard to take when we've had a bad run of form but today we were playing all right – though on the whole pretty shaky defensively. Duff is their best player and not marking him tightly is asking for it. We fought better than last week against Aston Villa, though, and the spirit's looking better. The manager's put a lot of pressure on himself – it will be interesting to see how far the new owners will back him.

The fan's player ratings Robinson 6; Salgado 6 (Emerton n/a 90), Hanley 7, Samba 5, Givet 5 (Pedersen 5 76); Hoilett 7 (Rochina 5 82), Jones 4, Nzonzi 6, Olsson 7; Roberts 5, Diouf 6

To take part in the Fans' Verdict, email sport@observer.co.uk

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by James Callow at Craven Cottage, for The Observer on Saturday 5th March 2011 17.16 Europe/London

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