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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012

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Trying to split the gap: Fulham's Alexander Kacaniklic takes a shot against Newcastle during Premier League action on Monday night at Craven Cottage. Fulham won 2-1. AP

Fulham ends dry spell with win over Newcastle


LONDON — Fulham ended a seven-game winless run in the Premier League after Hugo Rodallega's second-half goal delivered a 2-1 win over a lackluster Newcastle.

The Colombia striker scored with a header from a free kick in the 64th minute at Craven Cottage to inflict Newcastle's fifth loss in its past six league matches.

Fulham was better in the first half and scored through Steve Sidwell's tame shot that hit Newcastle defender Mike Williamson and went in off the crossbar in the 18th.

Hatem Ben Arfa equalized in the 54th when his shot deflected off John Arn Riise to loop over goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Fulham is 13th with 20 points, one position and three points ahead of Newcastle.

Fulham defender Sascha Reither made two first-half blocks to deny Fabio Coloccini and Pappiss Cisse.

Despite not having scored for 298 minutes before kickoff, Fulham was the better team in the first half, looking lively and allowing offseason signing Dimitar Berbatov to dictate the pace of the play.

"Berbatov was special. Everything he seemed to pluck out the sky. When he's in the mood, he's a real problem," Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said.

Fulham manager Martin Jol was also complimentary of his striker, and the impact he has on the squad.

"He is a quality player. The good thing about my squad is that they recognize that he is the one when Bryan Ruiz isn't there, that is keeping us together in our approach and our playing culture," Jol said. "Although he didn't score, maybe he covered more ground than ever before."

More goals should have come after Sidwell's as Berbatov forced a great save from Newcastle 'keeper Tim Krul when he found himself unmarked in front of goal just minutes after the restart.

After Ben Arfa equalized, the lead was short lived as Chiek Tiote brought down Fulham's Ashkan Dejagah just outside the left-side of the penalty area. The Iranian's free kick found the head of an unmarked Rodallega.

"The goal was a soft goal to give away. A cheap free kick, and then we didn't defend that situation well at all," Pardew said.

"We can't concede soft goals at this level."

Center-back Coloccini was unlucky not to score for Newcastle in the 70th minute when his curled shot from the edge of the area beat Schwarzer, but hit the crossbar.

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