Fulham spring into 2013 with win at West Brom

Fulham turned over a new leaf in the first Premier League game of 2013 by winning 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion on New Year's Day to record only their second win in 13 matches.

File picture shows Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov (C) escaping from Newcastle midfielder Gael Bigirimana (L) during the Premier League match at Craven Cottage in west London on December 10, 2012. Berbatov scored the opener as Fulham turned over a new leaf in the first Premier League game of 2013 by winning 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion on New Year's Day.

Dimitar Berbatov claimed the first goal of the calendar year to put Fulham in front, with Alex Kacaniklic netting a 58th-minute winner after Romelu Lukaku had equalised for West Brom with his seventh goal of the campaign.

It was only Fulham's second away win of the season and lifted Martin Jol's side two places to 12th, while Steve Clarke's West Brom remain seventh.

The final weekend of Premier League football in 2012 had dissolved in a blitz of 41 goals, but the first half at the Hawthorns showcased a sleepier side to the English top flight.

West Brom centre-back Gabriel Tamas headed wide from a corner in the 29th minute, before Berbatov spurned the game's first real chance when he blazed over from 25 yards after Chris Brunt miscued a back-pass.

When the breakthrough arrived, following a rapid Fulham counter-attack in the 39th minute, its quality was completely at odds with what had come to pass before.

Defending a corner, Fulham saw the ball pop out to Giorgios Karagounis, who helped it on to Berbatov in the centre circle.

The Bulgarian sprayed a pass wide to Ashkan Degajah, and he took a touch before cutting the ball back for the inrushing Berbatov to tuck a first-time shot between the legs of goalkeeper Ben Foster.

In response, Youssouf Mulumbu headed wide from Liam Ridgewell's left-wing cross, but West Brom had to wait only four minutes to level in the second half.

Billy Jones was the creator, bamboozling Matthew Briggs wide on the right by darting inside and then out, before rolling the ball square for Lukaku -- lingering on the offside boundary -- to tap in from five yards.

Lukaku then hit the post after holding off Aaron Hughes, before a frantic sequence saw Zoltan Gera strike the woodwork after David Stockdale had saved from Lukaku, with Brunt's follow-up brilliantly headed off the line by Hughes.

The hosts had taken control, but they were hit by a sucker-punch just before the hour when Kacaniklic collected Bryan Ruiz's lofted pass, turned, and rolled the ball beneath the advancing Foster to restore Fulham's lead.

The irrepressible Lukaku headed narrowly wide in the 75th minute, while Hughes had to scramble the ball off his own line in injury time after another jinking foray from Jones.

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Writer: AFP
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