Newcastle United 0 Fulham 0
- Martin Atkinson
Newcastle United played out a poor stalemate with Fulham in their last home outing of 2018.
0-0 looked the most likely outcome almost from the outset, with neither side able to generate any sort of attacking momentum on a desperately disappointing afternoon.
It was a familiar face in the visiting side who let fly with the first effort of the game inside the opening five minutes. Aleksandar Mitrović – sold to the West London outfit this summer – engineered enough room to shoot from the left side of the penalty area, but Martin Dúbravka was equal to his strike.
The best chance of the first half – if not the game as a whole – fell Newcastle’s way. Ki Sung-yueng delivered a free kick from deep, and Jamaal Lascelles was left with plenty of space in which to nod the ball across to the back post. Ayoze Pérez looked set to apply the finishing touch, but Denis Odoi cleared just in the nick of time.
In truth, though, the Magpies never really built up a head of steam in the opening 45 minutes. In possession, they were sloppy, unnecessarily conceding possession on a string of occasions. But Fulham rarely looked like punishing Rafa Benítez’s side, with Andre Schürrle’s hopeful attempt – blocked on the edge of the penalty area – their only threatening moment from open play.
The second half started in largely similar vein. Mitrović saw a tame effort from a tight angle easily gathered by Dúbravka shortly after the restart, but – ultimately – the game was becoming increasingly disjointed and one-paced. The Cottagers’ Serbian frontman looked isolated for the most part, while United created next to nothing.
Into the final 20 minutes, and Matt Ritchie did at least get a shot away after pouncing on a poor headed clearance. The Scot saw the resultant corner easily nodded away, but from his next delivery, Fabian Schär got off the ground and directed the ball narrowly over the crossbar.
That was about as close as the Magpies came after the break. With five minutes to go, another Ki free kick was only half-cleared by the Fulham defence, but substitute Kenedy’s wayward drive typified United’s lack of threat.
Though a goalless draw had looked inevitable most of the afternoon, there were a couple of late scares for Newcastle to withstand. Fulham substitute Aboubakar Kamara managed to take the ball past Dúbravka before picking out Mitrović, but the Serb’s strike from a central position was blocked by Lascelles. Then, with virtually the last kick of the game, the Magpies’ skipper slid in to disposess Kamara – who had strode into a dangerous position – to make sure his side avoided an embarrassing defeat.