Pajtim Kasami scored a contender for goal of the season as Fulham swept to a 4-1 victory over fellow strugglers Crystal Palace on Monday.
Martin Jol’s side had suffered an early setback at Selhurst Park when Adrian Mariappa headed Palace into the lead, but Switzerland midfielder Kasami, born in Macedonia to an Albanian family, illuminated a dank evening in southeast London with a majestic volleyed equalizer from an acute angle that conjured up memories of Marco van Basten’s famous strike for the Netherlands against the USSR in the final of the 1988 European Championships.
Palace never recovered from Kasami’s first-half wonder-goal and Steve Sidwell produced a fine goal of his own to put Fulham ahead before the interval.
Dimitar Berbatov and Philippe Senderos piled on the misery for Palace with second-half goals as Fulham secured only their third Premier League win of the season.
It was the first time Fulham had scored four goals in an away Premier League fixture since a 4-1 win at Newcastle United in November 2004.
“To be honest, I have never scored a better goal,” Kasami said. “I ran into the space and the pass was perfect. It was an unbelievable goal and I am very pleased.”
The victory lifted the Cottagers to 14th place and, given the broad smile worn by Fulham’s owner Shahid Khan as he looked on from the directors’ box, it may also have eased the pressure on under-fire boss Jol.
“The goal we conceded was sickening, but we responded well and it was a fantastic Pajtim Kasami goal with his wrong foot,” Jol said. “It was better than people think because he had to control the ball on his chest and then put it in the other corner. Marco van Basten’s goal was totally different and you can’t compare the two, but this one was better. It is one of the goals of the season.”
Second-from-bottom Palace have now lost seven of their eight league matches on their return to the Premier League after an eight-year absence and the happy memories of last season’s promotion from the Championship must feel increasingly distant to manager Ian Holloway and his beleaguered players.
It could have been so different for Palace if they had built on their dream start.
With just seven minutes played, Jason Puncheon crossed from the left and centerback Mariappa climbed above Brede Hangeland to head in from close range, but Fulham were leve1 12 minutes later thanks to Kasami’s stunning intervention.
There seemed little danger when the 21-year-old former US Citta di Palermo star ran onto Sascha Riether’s long ball down the right side of the Palace area, but he showed brilliant technique to control the pass on his chest, before unleashing a dipping volley that flashed into the top corner of Julian Speroni’s goal.
Speroni had no chance of reaching that strike and he was left grasping at thin air again when Sidwell put Fulham ahead in the 45th minute.
Bryan Ruiz hit a free-kick into the Palace wall and Sidwell was first to the rebound, blasting a superb first-time shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Speroni was beaten in more prosaic manner in the 50th minute when former Manchester United striker Berbatov glanced a header from Ruiz’s corner into the far corner for his first league goal of the season.
Berbatov had been given too much time to meet the delivery and Palace compounded the error by leaving the far post unguarded.
There was worse to come for shell-shocked Palace five minutes later when Speroni failed to keep out Senderos’ close-range volley, allowing the former Arsenal defender to notch his first goal since April last year after being left unmarked at the far post from another Ruiz corner.