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Hughes praise for Fulham win

Mark Hughes heaped on the praise following last night's 2-1 victory over Fulham:
"It was a difficult night. Fulham scoring first was exactly what they wanted. They were very well organised, with plenty of players behind the ball and difficult to break down.

"We had to be patient, keep the ball moving and create things, because with Craig, Carlos and Shaun up front knocking high balls into their penalty box isn't an option. But we stuck at it and we are in the next round, which was the object.

"There was a lot of physical and emotional effort at the weekend. At times we looked drained because of that, and we were up against a team with a lot of energy fielding players who didn't play at the weekend."

It didn't catch the game last night but it doesn't appear to have been one of our better, or free flowing performances. As Hughes states though, the game did come on the back of a draining game on Sunday, with Pablo Zabaleta in for Micah Richards the only change.

Whilst Fulham made plenty of changes, there side was far fresher than ours which could have been telling once the game went into extra-time.

Perhaps then, we should be praising the victory, for it being achieved in a gutsy manner and the side finding a way to win when on plenty of occasions in the past we have surrendered meekly in this competition. Even more so given that the sides toughness in situations such as last night was called into question when Hughes began assembling the high profile and costly additions.

And again, it was set-pieces that brought the goals - a facet of our game that has been non-existence until the start of the season but it such a vital component of any sides make up given the percentage of goals scored from dead ball situations. This fact was not lost on Hughes either:
"We have not done badly this season - in the early part of last year we did not look a threat from set plays. In games so far we look like a team that can now.

"We have told the players where we want the ball delivered and how they need to be a bit more dynamic in the box and make sure they get first contact.

"Invariably if you get that first contact something happens for you. That is what we have tried to emphasise to the players."
Whilst extra-time was perhaps unwanted, it did allow for some extended playing time for both Martin Petrov and Vladimir Weiss who have seen little action so far. We do also have an additional recovery period given the West Ham is not until Monday night.