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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:15 12th January 2013
By  Nick Taylor

REPORT: FULHAM 1 LATICS 1

Franco Di Santo's superb strike on 71 minutes earned Latics a crucial point and lifted them out of the relegation zone in what was an open and enthralling game of football.

Latics fell behind in the first half when Giorgos Karagounis drove the ball from range but the fighting spirit came through in the second half as Di Santo had two more great chances and Shaun Maloney had a shot tipped onto the bar.

In truth Fulham could have knicked it when Maynor Figueroa was forced to clear off the line from Bryan Ruiz in the dying moments but, Latics held on for a very positive point.

Robert Martinez was forced into one change after Arouna Kone travelled to South Africa with Ivory Coast for the Africa Cup of Nations and David Jones came into the midfield in his place.

It was a frantic start and a powerful start from Latics that showed real glimpses of just how well the team can link up going forward.

Inside the first five minutes Mark Clattenburg made a huge call as he denied Maloney a penalty when he was pushed in the back in the box when baring down on goal.

The Scotsman got a shot away but was falling under the nudge and Mark Schwarzer made his first of a string of good saves.

Fulham made defensive mistakes in the opening 20 minutes but Latics couldn't take advantage and three minutes later Fulham made pressure on the defence pay dividends.

Karagounis received the ball 30 yards out centre right of goal and was allowed to run into space as Latics backed off, the former Greece captain let fly through a crowd of players as the ball went past a sprawling Ali Al Habsi.

It was a frustrating first half for Latics with chances at a premium and Fulham pressure building up.

The best chance of the first half fell to eventual hero Di Santo when he connected at close range with an Emmerson Boyce cross but clipped the ball over the bar as he lunged in to score.

A turnaround was needed in the second half and it came in fine style as Latics built up confidence and started to create clear cut opportunities.

Shaun Maloney tested Schwarzer first when his curling effort from the edge of the area was tipped onto the cross bar and then Di Santo rippled the side netting as he flicked the ball up to himself on the edge the area and swiveled to volley just wide.

The pressure was mounting and a goal looked certain to come.

And so it did, with some fine individual skill and effort down the left, Di Santo breezed through defenders, opened up his body and lashed the ball past Schwarzer sending the 500 travelling Latics fans wild.

Two more chances fell to the Argentinian with him first stinging the gloves off Schwarzer from a tight angle and then getting one-on-one with defender Brede Hangeland but having what looked like a goal bound effort blocked wide to safety.

As the game opened up and both sides looked for a winner, Ivan Ramis faced a painful end to the game when he appeared to twist his knee in a tackle with Dimitar Berbatov.

The Spaniard was stretchered off and replaced by Ronnie Stam with four minutes of added time to play.

Figueroa proved as vital as Di Santo by the end of the game though, when Bryan Ruiz had the beating of Ronnie Stam and clipped a shot past Al Habsi from a tight angle but, he didn't expect Figueroa to fly in, adjust his back-tracking body and head clear for Latics to claim a crucial point.