Fulham face Exeter City in League Cup second round

Fulham will face League Two Exeter City in the second round of the League Cup following tonight’s draw.

The Whites were drawn as the home side so they will host the Grecians at Craven Cottage in the week commencing Monday 27 August. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side were knocked of last year’s competition at this stage by Bristol Rovers.

Jokanovic upbeat despite Palace defeat

Slavisa Jokanovic refused to be downcast after Fulham’s Premier League return ended in a defeat by Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

The Whites were beaten by a splendid Jeffrey Schlupp strike and a piece of predatory finishing from Wilfred Zaha after a mistake from Fabri in the Fulham goal. But Jokanovic told his press conference following the final whistle that the Whites would learn from the defeat and come back stronger.

The Serbian head coach said:

We wanted to start the competition with a positive result. We showed some positive things, and some negative things. It’s the first time we’ve tested ourselves at this level – we found more power, speed and quality, and we must adapt ourselves fast.

I can’t fault my players. They put everything into it. We created some chances. Crystal Palace’s keeper made a few great saves. We followed our style and moved the ball. On the defensive side, we found it hard to stop [Wilfried] Zaha and [Christian] Benteke, who showed quality.

He felt Palace’s experience of top flight football and their clinical finishing in the final third was the true difference between the sides:

Palace know this level better than us. We competed well and didn’t change our philosophy. Generally, I’m happy we followed the plan, but they punished us with speed, power and quality. For the first goal, [Jeffrey] Schlupp turned really quickly and smashed it in. For the second goal, we made a few mistakes and they finished the action and killed the game.

At this level, you normally pay an expensive price for mistakes. We’re in a process of working and learning, and I’m sure we’ll be better during the weeks in front of us. It’s a fantastic afternoon. We can’t start crying after the first day. Premier League is back at Craven Cottage after four years.

Jokanovic hailed the Fulham fans for their support and insisted his side would emerge stronger from the experience.

The atmosphere was fantastic. Our crowd pushed us, like always. It’s a shame that we can’t make them completely satisfied, but the fans know it’s not going to be easy. We’re ready for the challenge. We’re ready for the fight

Zaha punishes Fulham on their Premier League return

Fulham were taught a harsh lesson in the realities of the Premier League as a clinical Crystal Palace side claimed their first top flight win at Craven Cottage since 1968 this afternoon.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s side dominated possession throughout the contest and looked more than a match for former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson’s outfit for much of the first hour, but the Eagles eventually showed the evidence of their Premier League class in both boxes to record what became a comfortable opening day win. Fulham began brightly and showed some classy touches in midfield, with Ivorian debutante Jean-Michael Seri to the fore, but they failed to add a cutting edge to their pretty approach play and found Wayne Hennessy in fine form in the Palace goal.

The home side made an encouraging start with Cyrus Christie, who had oceans of space in front of him down the right flank all afternoon, almost surprising Hennessy at his near post with a low shot from outside the box inside the first three minutes. Captain Tom Cairney, who faded as the match went on, played in Ryan Sessegnon down the left and the teenager’s deflected shot almost fell for Andre Schurrle but the German winger was unable to provide a decisive touch. The Whites should have gone ahead on thirteen minutes when Sessegnon’s smart through ball put Schurrle away but Aleksandar Mitrovic’s side-footed finish was palmed to safety by a diving Hennessey. From the ensuing corner, a clambering Mitrovic sent a header wide of the far post.

Palace soaked up the pressure and gradually began to get a foothold in the contest. Their first sight of goal fell to Andros Townsend, whose sighter from range was easily fielded by Fabri – preferred in goal to the deadline-day signing from Sevilla, Sergio Rico. Christian Benteke almost gave the visitors the lead with a trademark powerful header on the half hour, but the backpeddling Fabri was able to turn his effort on to the crossbar.

At the other end, Mitrovic was warming to the task. He almost marked his return to Craven Cottage as a permanent Fulham signing with a goal, wriggling away from the attentions of Tomkins, keeping his feet and placing a shot inside the far post but Hennessey pulled off another fine save. Palace went up the other end and opened the scoring with a lovely, flowing move. Patrick van Aaanholt guided a pass into the feet of Jeffrey Schlupp, who held off the otherwise excellent Calum Chambers to work a yard of space, and lashed a venomous finish into the roof of the net.

The goal galvanised Hodgson’s men. van Aanholt thought he had added a second with astonishing curler into the top corner from the right angle of the box, but an offside flag ruled it out. The former Chelsea full-back still might have handed the visitors a more comfortable cushion to take into the half-time interval, but Fabri snuffled his snapshot after he had burst past Joe Bryan brimming with attacking intent.

Fulham continued to pour numbers forward and the game’s major talking point arrived after an hour. Schurrle looked to have been felled in the box by a poor Mahmadou Sakho challenge after the German winger had stolen possession from the Palace centre back but Mike Dean theatrically waved away the appeals. Jokanovic was incensed on the touchline and swiftly introduced Aboubakar Kamara but Fulham struggled to find a way past Palace’s stubborn defence.

The Eagles were looking menacing in attack and might have doubled their lead when Wilfred Zaha left Maxime Le Marchand trailing in his wake only for Fabri to improvise and save with his feet. At the other end, Hennessey dived smartly to his right to snaffle Mitrovic’s glancing header from a delicious delivery by Bryan, who eventually succumbed to an untimely ankle injury. Jokanovic went for broke by throwing on attacker Luciano Vietto and the Argentinian showed some silky touches, not least in setting up Aboubakar Kamara for a rising curler from the edge of the box that drifted agonisingly over.

But Fulham’s hopes of a comeback were extinguished by a ghastly error from Fabri with ten minutes to play. He rushed off his line as the impressive Aaron Wan-Bissaka threaded a through ball towards Zaha but never looked likely to reach the ball before the Ivorian forward, instead allowing him the simplest of finishes to put the game to bed. Fulham, to their credit, continued to go forward with Hennessey producing another excellent stop to claw away a Sessegnon header in the final minute before Kamara lashed a finish into the side netting in injury time.

It wasn’t the start the Fulham faithful had been dreaming off, but there was more than enough to suggest the Whites could surprise a few opponents once their myriad of deadline day signings bed in.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Fabri; Christie, Bryan (Vietto 71), Chambers, Le Marchand; McDonald Seri (Johansen 82), Cairney; Schurrle (Kamara 61), R. Sessegnon, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Cisse, Kebano.

BOOKED: McDonald.

CRYSTAL PALACE (4-4-2): Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, van Aaanholt (Souare 90), Tomkins, Sakho; Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend (Kouyaté 88), Schlupp; Benteke (Sorloth 83), Zaha. Subs (not used): Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Riedewald.

BOOKED: Zaha, Schlupp.

GOALS: Schlupp (41), Zaha (79).

REFEREE: Mike Dean (Birkenhead).


Ream to miss Fulham’s Premier League return

Tim Ream will miss out on Fulham’s first Premier League game for four years tomorrow after picking up an injury in training.

The absence of the American, who was voted the club’s player of the season during last year’s promotion-winning campaign, will be keenly felt at Craven Cottage with Denis Odoi, his regular central defensive partner in the second half of the season, suspended and new signing Alfie Mawson still recovering from injury. It could see England international Calum Chambers partnering French defender Maxime Le Marchand, a summer arrival from Nice, at the heart of Slavisa Jokanovic’s defence.

Jokanovic revealed a number of his first-team squad will be unavailable for the opening game of the season against Crystal Palace during his press conference this afternoon:

Tomorrow first of all I cannot use Denis Odoi, he is suspended. Alfie Mawson still hasn’t started working with us, and probably Tim Ream is injured too, so I can’t use him either. Floyd Ayite is injured as well.

The Serbian head coach insisted he is not expecting to have any problems when it comes to selecting his starting line-up given the number of options at his disposal. He has already made clear to his players that hard work at Motspur Park will be crucial in ensuring they force their way into his plans.

I will give them the chance to compete to play in the Premier League. My job stops at 11 [players] and the bench, this is my job, people pay me to make these decisions. I am not Santa Claus, I don’t need to make anybody happy. I try to make it hard, with great competition between my players. This is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and presents don’t exist, they need to fight in training.

Jokanovic is certainly not underestimating the challenge that Fulham will face tomorrow from Crystal Palace, led by the former Whites’ boss Roy Hodgson.

Crystal Palace is a Premier League ready team, definitely with more experience than us at this level. They know they are dangerous in this offensive side, between [Christian] Benteke, [Wilfried] Zaha and [Andros] Townsend. On the other side, we must care about [Luka] Milivojevic too, who is a good player. Many things depend on this guy, we did analysis of this team and I hope that we are ready.

We must be clever and modify a few things, we are going to play against different qualities, different pace, different power. We don’t need to change too much, but enough to know what we are going to find in this competition. It is always important that we grow, and we need to grow up from last season.

The Fulham head coach also refused to be drawn into predicting where his side would finish – telling the press that his focus was on trying to take three points from the first game and doing everything possible to try and keep the club in the top flight.

Our principal target is to stay up. This is a famous question from the press, where are we going to finish, and we haven’t even started yet. I prefer working step by step, all of us will have more information after the first game and it is better for us to think this way. At the end of the season we will see our level and where we can improve for the future.

It is very exciting, a great experience for us, my first experience of coaching at this level. It’s probably a dream for all coaches to have this opportunity, and I’m going to push to be successful. We are trying to build a Premier League team. We are trying to be competitive at this level.

Fulham announce audacious Anguissa capture

Fulham have completed an audacious deal to sign Cameron international André Frank Zambo Anguissa which could be worth as much as £27m. The transfer remains dependent on the midfielder being granted a work permit.

The deal to sign the powerful defensive midfielder, who has enjoyed two stellar years in the south of France since being signed from Reims’ second string, looked liable to collapse twice earlier this afternoon – firstly, over a dispute about solidarity payments to the midfielder’s former clubs and then when West Ham attempted to try and tempt Anguissa to east London.

According to reports in the French press this evening, Anguissa had his medical in Marseille – watched by Fulham employees – and the clubs had to apply for an extension as protracted negotiations over the structure of the deal dragged on. Anguissa established himself as a key member of the Marseille side that reached last season’s Europa League final with a number of composed displays as a deep-lying midfielder, but the French club successfully managed to double Fulham’s opening bid of around £14m.

Anguissa leaves Marseille having made 104 appearances in three seasons and fits Slavisa Jokanovic’s mould of a strong defensively minded midfielder – the type of signing he was calling for in the aftermath of the Whites’ final pre-season friendly against Celta Vigo. Fulham have now broken their club transfer record for the second type in a month after signing Ivorian international Jean-Michael Seri from Nice earlier this summer.

Anguissa, who has won eleven senior international caps for Cameroon, has put pen to paper on a five-year contract. He told Fulham’s official website tonight:

I am delighted to have signed for Fulham today. This is a new chapter in my career and one I’m really looking forward to. I hope to bring my qualities to this new project. I like a challenge and I will ensure that I give my very best to my team, the Club, and the supporters.

Fulham’s head of football operations, Tony Khan, also added:

I’m thrilled to announce that Fulham Football Club has signed André Zambo Anguissa. André’s tremendous data profile, his glowing scouting reports, and his sterling reputation confirm his world class talent. Throughout this summer, we’ve pursued elite players on whom we believed we could rely to deliver the quality required to challenge the great competition we’ll face in the Premier League, and thus, Andre has been one of our top targets.