If you though that Brighton might choke towards the end of a fine season, then you are dead wrong, as the Seagulls dismantled a robust Fulham side Friday night. Any thought of Brighton slipping up at the worst of times, had firmly been thrown out the window after putting on a promotion-chasing display, and hitting the ball back into Middlesbrough and Burnely’s court.
After a very slow and lethargic first 25 minutes, when Fulham had plenty of the ball and time to do what they like with it, the game spark into life when Beram Kayal’s shot/cross was saved by Marcus Bettinelli, as he tipped it over the bar. Soon after James Wilson was brought down in the penalty area by Richard Stearmann’s clumsy shove, after Wilson had wriggled his way around him after a good ball through by Liam Rosenior; Tomer Hemed stepped up to take it, and just like he did back in August, he sent the keeper the wrong way to give the Albion the lead. It was 2-0 just a few minutes later, Hemed once again; a cross from an Anthony Knockaert free-kick was met by Hemed, and he guided the ball back across into the far corner to beat the stretched Bettinelli. Wilson had the chance to make it 3 before half-time, when Kayal played him through 1-on-1, but his chipped shot was deflected of the arm of Bettinelli for a corner. It was 3 however just after half-time, after a corner from Jiri Skalak was missed by everyone in the centre of the box, Bruno was on hand to control the ball down, and volley a fierce shot into the net. Fulham’s first chance took nearly 65 minutes, when Ryan Tunnicliffe crossed a low ball into the path of Ross McCormack, his shot was saved by David Stockdale before parrying away the ball as it was dropping into the net. Hemed had a chance to complete his hat-trick when Wilson derived at the Fulham defence, he played a great ball into Hemed, but his shot was saved by the legs of Bettinelli. Emerson Hyndman had a stinging shot well saved by Stockdale, as he tipped it over the bar. Hemed did get his hat-trick though, when Dale Stephens shot was deflected in off the Israeli’s foot; there may have been a hint of offside, but it was given. It was the first hat-trick by an Albion player since the hat-trick by Leo Ulloa against Huddersfield back in March 2013. Anthony Knockaert wanted to get in on the act too, his powerful shot was well tipped around the post by Bettinelli, while Steve Sidwell had his shot blocked off the line by Chris Baird after a wonderful cut-back from Stephens. The Albion did make it 5 however, Kayal played through Knocaert and after cutting in on his favoured left foot, he curled a lovely shot into the far corner leaving Bettinelli rooted to the spot. Kazenga LuaLua had the chance to really humiliate them, but his shot went into the side-netting. 5-0 was how it finished, and it has clearly sent a message that Brighton are in it til the end.
Stockdale (7); Wasn’t called into action often, but had some good saves when Fulham did have a shot.
Bruno (8); Well taken goal, and was solid in defence in the first 25 minutes, after that it was all about attacking for him.
Dunk (7); Hard job marking McCormack, but did well and frustrated him all night.
Goldson (7); Did well marking the tricky Moussa Dembele, never looked out of place.
Rosenior (7); a little quiet in the first, but offered plenty of support in the second.
Knockaert (9); A magician on the ball, and the goal topped off a wonderful display.
Kayal (8); Comanded the middle of the pitch, and gave Scott Parker little time to play the ball.
Stephens (7); Good passing from him again, but he was better defensively when Jamie O’Hara, then Lasse Christensen looked to attack.
Skalak (7); Most have nicknamed him ‘The Postman’ because he delivery is so good, and proved it again with wonderful crosses.
Wilson (8); Run his socks off all night, and should of been rewarded with a goal.
Hemed (10); First hat-trick for over 3 years, and is now starting to look like he was worth every penny.
Sidwell (6); Little time to make an impact, but had a shot cleared off the line.
Murphy (6); On for Wilson late on, but didn’t offer much.
LuaLua (6); Had a good chance at the end, but hit the side-netting
BHAFC - FFC; Hemed (29pen), (34), (79), Bruno (54), Knockaert (87);