Dempsey steers Fulham to win over Newcastle
Clint Dempsey became the first American to score a hat trick in the English Premier League as he steered Fulham to an astonishing 5-2 comeback victory over Newcastle on Saturday.
Dempsey completed the second hat trick of his five-year career in English football in a 30-minute span in the second half, just two weeks after scoring the first - against Charlton in the FA Cup on Jan. 7.
Newcastle dominated the opening 45 minutes and a superb drive from around 25 yards (meters) from Danny Guthrie put the visitors deservedly 1-0 ahead at halftime.
But Danny Murphy leveled from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute and Dempsey struck twice - his first being his 50th goal for Fulham - to leave the home side firmly in control.
Bobby Zamora converted another spot-kick in the 68th minute before Dempsey completed his hat trick in the 89th. Hatem Ben Arfa had pulled a goal back for Newcastle by then.
His latest feat took Dempsey to a career-best 15 goals this season, two more than his previous best last season, and a total of 52 since the 28-year-old forward joined Fulham from New England Revolution in January, 2007.
''We never found our rhythm in the first half but we began to get into their penalty area in the second half,'' Dempsey said after taking his Premier League tally to nine goals. ''Danny Murphy scored the first goal and then we kept going and going. Luckily the ball kept going in. We never took our foot off the gas and we took our chances.''
Fulham manager Martin Jol was delighted with the American's performance and was keen for it continue as the team moved eight points away from the relegation zone.
''Clint Dempsey is our top scorer,'' Jol said. ''He is doing what he does best. Clint scores goals and if he can score 12 goals this year and some other players do we will be fine.''
Coming into the match, Jol spoke of making amends for last weekend's 3-1 defeat at 10-man Blackburn, but his side struggled to stamp its authority during the opening exchanges.
Fulham's difficult opening period got worse when Steve Sidwell - one of Fulham's better players - limped off in the 37th minute to be replaced by Andrew Johnson, forcing Jol to alter his tactics.
The substitute partnered Zamora in attack as the home side moved to a 4-4-2 formation, although it could not stop Newcastle dominating, with Guthrie finding the net as halftime approached.
Jol made his second alteration of the afternoon at the break, replacing Bryan Ruiz with Chris Baird. The change saw Fulham become a more coherent unit and brought a penalty within six minutes, when Damien Duff was brought down. Murphy sent keeper Tim Krul the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
Fulham turned up the pressure and, after neat interplay between Johnson and Zamora, Krul parried the latter's shot across goal and Dempsey bundled home at the far post.
Baird fired a 35-meter effort over as the hosts pressed for a third goal, which duly arrived in the 65th minute. More neat interplay between Fulham's strikers started the move as Johnson laid off to Zamora and he played through Dempsey, who showed real composure to fire across Krul.
Fulham netted a fourth three minutes later when Johnson shrugged off a rough challenge by Mike Williamson before being hauled down by Krul, who received a booking and was then beaten from the spot by Zamora.
Fulham sat back as the game wore on and Newcastle pulled a goal back five minutes from time when Ben Arfa jinked past John Arne Riise to fire home, although Dempsey soon ended any hopes with his hat-trick goal.
A day after he was voted player of the year by the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Texan burst through the middle to latch onto Zamora's chipped pass and fire past Krul.