Football: Babel strike leaves Cardiff on brink of relegation

Fulham's Dutch defender Ryan Babel (second left) celebrates his goal with team mates.
Fulham's Dutch defender Ryan Babel (second left) celebrates his goal with team mates.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Ryan Babel struck a potentially deadly blow to Cardiff City's Premier League survival chances with a stunning 25-yard strike that secured Fulham a deserved 1-0 win at Craven Cottage on Saturday (April 27).

The defeat left Cardiff three points adrift of Brighton & Hove Albion, who play Newcastle United later on Saturday, and means they are likely to join Fulham in the Championship next season.

The win means Fulham equalled their own Premier League record of three successive wins as Dutchman Babel struck a fierce first-time shot 11 minutes from time to register his sixth goal of the season.

But Fulham had to withstand a ferocious Cardiff rearguard action in the final few minutes, with Bobby Reid hitting the bar and keeper Sergio Rico pulling off a series of outstanding saves.

The game was delayed for seven minutes in the first half after Fulham's Denis Odoi was accidentally kicked in the face by team mate Maxine Le Marchand.

The defender was knocked out cold and had to be revived with oxygen before being carried off to a standing ovation.

After a lacklustre first half, Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic blazed a wonderful chance just over from 12 yards as Fulham looked to capitalise on their recent good form under caretaker manager Scott Parker.

"Babel's goal was special," he said.

"He has come up with a fantastic strike and won us the game.

"Massive positive for Sergio Rico, he stood up and so did the back four. It has been a tough year, we have conceded a lot of goals but three clean sheets is massive."

Parker confirmed that Odoi was recovering from his injury.

"He was out of it for a few seconds which was concerning, but he is fine and will be OK," the former midfielder added.

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, who has never won a league game at Craven Cottage in 11 attempts, suggested his side would not have scored "had we carried on till Christmas."

He said: "The luck has been against us. On reflection my team selection was wrong, but you can't fault the lads."