Although Fulham’s four-month unbeaten run continued on Saturday afternoon, a late goal conceded to Brentford made the 1-1 draw feel like a loss.
The Whites have just three games remaining in the Championship season, and a gutsy response is needed in order to keep their promotion push alive.
Fulham were surprisingly nervy and flat against the Bees, and in all truth, the draw flattered the home side.
Brentford were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty, had a number of good chances marginally called offside, and harassed the Whites all match.
Fulham went ahead through talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic with just twenty minutes to go but failed to kill off the game, allowing for pressure to build and Brentford to strike late on.
The 94th-minute equaliser brought a sickening feeling to Craven Cottage that had not been felt for many a month, but there is no time for Fulham to languish in disappointment.
Three cup finals await, and if the Whites are to stand any chance of automatic promotion, they must win all three. Millwall, Sunderland, and Birmingham City beckon for the Cottagers; their season truly rests on these final league matches.
Not only is it important to end the season strong in order to keep the pressure on Cardiff, Fulham must also keep up momentum if they are to finish outside the top two. If they can’t close the gap to the Bluebirds in second, a strong run going into the play-offs will be imperative for confidence.
Nonetheless, all hope is not lost for automatic promotion just yet. If Fulham win all three of their remaining matches, they will go up in second, if Cardiff draw two and win two.
Cardiff still have to travel to play-off chasing Derby County in their game in hand and, although their other three matches are against teams in the bottom eight, Hull City away will be a tough task.
The Tigers have recently drawn Wolves and Aston Villa, as well as thrashing Burton 5-0 and QPR 4-0. If Hull and Derby can muster a result against Cardiff, then Fulham will control second place.
This dream is still a long way off. The Whites need to show resolve and steel in bouncing back from their derby day heartbreak; their promotion hopes depend on it.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s Fulham record is magnificent, only Mohamed Salah is better
The former Newcastle United man has proven to be a superb signing.
Serbia international Aleksandar Mitrovic has proven to be an instant hit at Fulham, playing a crucial role since his switch in January.
Originally joining the Cottagers on loan from Newcastle, Mitrovic hit 12 goals in the Championship to help propel the West London side to the top-flight and then opened his Premier League account for the club in Saturday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
Trailing 1-0, Mitrovic netted an equaliser for Fulham at Wembley seven minutes after the break and maintained an excellent record as a result – with only Liverpool star Mohamed Salah outscoring him in English football since he made his debut for the club in February.
13 – Since his debut for Fulham in February, Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 13 league goals; only Mohamed Salah (14) has more in the top four tiers of English football in that time. Fire.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 18, 2018
Mitrovic never really got a look in under Rafael Benitez during Newcastle’s return to the top-flight last season but the Magpies will certainly be regretting that decision, as they have seen the likes of Dwight Gayle and Islam Slimani struggle to make an impact – with both now plying their trade elsewhere.
Fulham, meanwhile, invested heavily in their squad over the course of the summer but securing Mitrovic on a permanent basis may prove to be the shrewdest deal of them all – especially as he is well accustomed to the English game and, unlike forwards arriving from abroad, will not require time to settle.
He showed that against Mauricio Pochettino‘s Tottenham on Saturday, up against a defence that conceded just 36 goals last season – the third-best record in the Premier League behind Manchester City and Manchester United.
Fulham are empty-handed from their opening two fixtures after defeats to Crystal Palace and Tottenham but Mitrovic can provide a boost in the coming weeks during a run of winnable games, where the Cottagers clash with Burnley, Brighton and Watford over the course of the next month.
One winner, one loser as Fulham face defeat against Tottenham
The Cottagers have suffered two defeats from two so far this season.
Fulham endured a losing return to Wembley on Saturday, falling to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur.
It was a match few expected the Whites to get anything out of, but the newly-promoted club nevertheless played with energy and had the score level at 1-1 for a large portion of the second half.
It was an encouraging display, yet ultimately a pointless result as Fulham slumped to two consecutive defeats.
Here is one winner and one loser from the match, as one Fulham defender rose to the occasion and one of last season’s promotion heroes was dropped to the bench.
Winner: Maxime Le Marchand
There had been much talk of how Fulham were missing a multitude of central defenders in the run-up to the match, with Denis Odoi suspended and Tim Ream and Alfie Mawson missing through injury.
Yet despite the absence of these centre-backs, Maxime Le Marchand produced an all-action display at the heart of Fulham’s back four. Standing in the way of many Spurs attacks, the Frenchman was quick to snuff out danger and block dangerous shots all match.
It was telling that all three goals came from brilliant pieces of skill from Spurs, and Le Marchand might well have given Slavisa Jokanovic another selection headache when Ream and Mawson are fit again.
Loser: Kevin McDonald
The holding midfielder lost his place in the team on Saturday, replaced by deadline day signing Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
The Cameroonian international had only joined up with the squad this week, and with a limited number of training sessions under his belt, many expected McDonald to be preferred in the starting XI.
Yet to the surprise of some Fulham supporters, Anguissa was immediately thrust into the match from the start and played the full 90 minutes with promise. In flashes, he showed impetus and strength, yet struggled at times to distribute the ball quickly and effectively through the midfield.
McDonald, a stalwart and integral member of last season’s team, will feel hard done by to have lost his starting berth– but that is the nature of the Premier League.
More competition means more uncomfortable decisions, and it is now up to the Scot to convince Jokanovic that he deserves to be Fulham’s first choice defensive midfielder.
Three things learnt from Tottenham’s win over Fulham: Moura proves his point
Harry Kane finally ended his August curse by scoring in the Premier League in the first month of the season as Tottenham secured a 3-1 victory over Fulham at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.
Lucas Moura had opened the scoring with an impressive curling finish on the stroke of half-time, but the visitors fought back as Aleksandr Mitrovic nodded into an empty net after some poor defending.
Kieran Trippier gave his team the lead again with a free-kick as the clock ticked down and then Kane’s moment came with a composed finish into the far corner of the net.
Here’s what we learned from the tie…
Mauricio Pochettino is a man of his word
The Spurs coach promised to a fresh start for the squad after the closure of the transfer window and he followed through on that promise with his selection against Fulham in a London derby.
With Toby Alderweireld back in the team for only his sixth appearance for the club in 2018, Danny Rose also returned to the matchday squad and took a place on the bench. Having failed to sign anyone this summer, it’s clear that the coach has little choice but to call upon such players.
Lucas Moura proved he deserved his chance
After a dazzling pre-season campaign caught the eye, often acting as a second striker behind Fernando Llorente, Moura started for Pochettino alongside Harry Kane in attack and showed why he deserved a shot. His strike just before half-time was the perfect example of his excellent technique.
Throughout, the Brazilian was energetic and his movement created opportunities for those in and around him. After this display, he can expect to be in contention.
Ben Davies’ questionable form has continued
Question marks were raised over the performances of Ben Davies in pre-season after he looked to have secured the role of first choice at left-back in 2017/18. Many shrugged off his form as pre-season and nothing to worry about, but his start to the competitive campaign has shown few signs of improvement.
As Aleksandr Mitrovic scored the equaliser, it was his woeful positioning and tracking back which allowed Ryan Sessegnon to feed in the Serbian striker to nod into an empty net.
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