Cairney pulls out of Scotland squad

Tom Cairney has withdrawn from the Scotland squad for next month’s international double header against Belgium and Albania due to an ankle injury.

The Fulham captain limped off towards the end of their first Premier League victory of the season against Burnley on Sunday and was rested for last night’s League Cup win over Exeter City. Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic had hoped that the playmaker would be available for Saturday’s trip to face Brighton and Hove Albion, but that now looks unlikely following Cairney’s withdrawal.

The 27 year-old suffered serious disruption to the start of his campaign last season due to a persistent knee injury and this latest ankle problem, caused by a late challenge from Burnley’s Charlie Taylor, could give Jokanovic a selection headache for the clash at the AMEX this weekend. Cairney’s possible absence could open the door to Stefan Johansen, who captained the Whites to victory over the Grecians last night.

Kamara growing in confidence after Exeter double

Aboubakar Kamara believes his confidence – and that of the Fulham team – is growing after he scored twice to beat Exeter and send the Whites into the third round of the League Cup.

The French forward’s brace gave Fulham a comfortable win over the League Two outfit at Craven Cottage last night and he feels that the victory will boost morale in the camp ahead of Saturday’s tough trip to Brighton. The 23 year-old told Fulham’s official website:

It’s good to score the two goals, it gives us confidence. It’s great for everyone, for me and the whole team. We’re all here to support each other. It’s important to take your chance. When a coach decides that you are ready to play, then you have to show that you will repay his faith in making that decision. Also, it’s good for my own confidence to score goals.

Kamara admitted that facing lower league opposition was far from easy but he was also determined to take his chance to impress Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic.

It’s not easy, mentally it’s not easy, you really have to apply yourself. It’s right that they are a lower league team but they came here with the intention to win so we had to respect them, which is what we did, but we also had to show that we wanted to win as well.

It’s a long season, a very long season. The first two games of course were difficult, but there are so many matches left. We have to be solid and now just have that belief that we can carry on this good form.

Fulham 2-0 Exeter City: Player ratings

Sergio Rico: A largely straightforward debut for the Sevilla loanee as League Two Exeter rarely posed much of a threat to the Fulham goal. Rico was saved by his far post after being beaten by Matt Jay’s low drive from distance that nearly gave the Grecians an equaliser shortly after the home side had taken the lead, but other than that he barely had a save to make. His distribution was a little shaky, sending a couple of kicks straight out of play, and he flapped at one second half corner. 6

Cyrus Christie: An energetic showing from the Republic of Ireland international, who frequently bombed on from right back to cause problems in the final third. His driving runs were an effective weapon against Exeter, with his fourth minute shot totally surprising Christie Pym and leading to Fulham’s opening goal. Still a little inconsistent with his final ball and probably hasn’t done enough to usurp Timothy Fosu-Mensah for a starting spot against Brighton on Saturday. 7

Ryan Sessegnon: The teenager was deployed at left back after only getting a few minutes as a substitute against Burnley on Sunday and was eager to impress from the off. Sent a couple of shots wide in the first half and looked to supplement the Fulham attack as often as he could. Laid on a couple of good chances for Neeskens Kebano by getting to the by-line after the break and looked full of running until the end. Unlikely to displace Joe Bryan at full back and could face a battle to win his spot back from Luciano Vietto following the Argentine’s excellent outing at the weekend. 7

Alfie Mawson: The summer signing from Swansea’s long-awaited debut was encouraging as he continues his recovery from knee surgery. Resumed his one-time England under-21 international partnership with Calum Chambers at centre back and looked every inch the old-fashioned centre half that Fulham have been lacking. Confident in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet, it is clear that Mawson will be a fixture in the first time once he has regained that much sharpness. Stayed on for a bit longer than Slavisa Jokanovic had suggested and, barring one moment where he was caught out by Jay, it was an outstanding start in a Fulham shirt. 7

Calum Chambers: An understated display from the Arsenal loanee alongside Mawson. Looked to get on the ball at every opportunity and started a number of attacks from the back. Still a few doubts about his positional sense as he lost track of Exeter’s three forwards on a few occasions, but Chambers did produce a couple of crucial blocks in the second period. Might have gone from one of our first choice options at the beginning of the campaign to a reserve once everyone is fully fit. 6

Ibrahima Cisse: The Guinea international got his opportunity at the base of the Fulham midfield and seems to be more attuned to Jokanovic’s system than he was last season. Not afraid to get a foot in, Cisse now appears able to start moves off with a cute pass or two and this was a much more mature display than some of his early showings in a Fulham shirt. Still makes some questionable decisions at times and surrendered possession far too simply in a dangerous area of the field that almost led to an Exeter equaliser early in the first half. 6

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa: Plenty to like about the Cameroonian midfielder’s all-action display in a more advanced role than the one has filled on his previous two outings for Fulham. Looked a threat carrying the ball forward from debut and displayed plenty of nice touches and an eye for a pass. One brilliant turn and release sent Ryan Sessegnon scampering to the by-line as his set up a second half chance and Anguissa was eager to get a few shots away, although he should have scored when presented with an open goal after Pym had tipped Stefan Johansen’s free-kick onto the post. 7

Stefan Johansen: The skipper for the evening was unlucky not to cap a strong performance with a goal late on when Pym did well to turn his curling free-kick from just outside the box onto his near post. Seemed to operation in second gear for much of the contest, but still showed touches of the drive and endeavour that characterised his excellent first two seasons at the club. Made the second goal with a beautiful through ball to release Aboubakar Kamara. 7

Neeskens Kebano: The Congolese international was desperate to impress and buzzed away dangerously drifting in from the left flank all night. He will be desperately disappointed to have picked up an ankle injury when his second half shot was blocked by Aaron Martin – and we hope that it is not as serious as it first appeared. Was perhaps trying too hard to force his way back into Jokanovic’s first time plans as he spurned a few good opportunities, but Kebano remains a lively option off the bench. 6

Aboubakar Kamara: The star of the show. The French forward’s enthusiasm has always been infectious and the manner in which he took his two goals illustrated just how much he has improved since those early performances following his arrival from Amiens last summer. Showed brilliant reflexes and agility to volley in the rebound from Christie’s speculative shot as he put Fulham ahead and some of runs from the right flank were particularly intelligent. Kept up his cool when one-on-one early in the second half and may still have significant improvement in him at the age of 23. 7

Rui Fonte: It just hasn’t happened for the Portuguese forward and Fulham and last night’s performance encapsulated why. Fonte struggled to get much change out of the Exeter back three as a lone forward, lacking the physicality to win anything in the air and often dropped so deep that he was behind the play. Toiled manfully, but when he did get an opportunity in the six-yard box, his finish lacked conviction and Pym was able to make a good reaction save. 6

Substitutes:

Luca de la Torre (on for Neeksens Kebano, 74): The American showed a few clever touches in a lively cameo after replacing the unfortunate Kebano for the final fifteen minutes or so. 6

Steven Sessegnon (on for Alfie Mawson, 75): The young defender displayed his versatility by slotting in alongside Chambers at centre back and even ventured forward with a couple of mazy dribbles as he got more first-team minutes under his belt. 6

Mawson pleased with ‘perfect debut’

Alfie Mawson was delighted to come through his Fulham debut unscathed after spending a long summer on the sidelines following knee surgery – and described a clean sheet in the League Cup victory over Exeter City as ‘a perfect debut‘.

The former England under-21 international defender made his long-awaited Fulham debut alongside Calum Chambers at the heart of a much-changed back four and lasted far longer than head coach Slavisa Jokanovic had suggested in his pre-match comments. Mawson told FulhamFCTV of his pleasure at finally being able to pull on the Fulham shirt after his summer switch from Swansea City:

I think we dominated. We were a bit slow in the first half with our build-up play, but fair play to Exeter they set up quite well. A clean sheet is the most important thing for me as a debut and to go through with that is perfect.

I was really happy. I think this game was the perfect opportunity for me to get out there and really test the knee since the injury and, thankfully, no problems at all. I felt really strong. To play a bit longer than first anticipated, I’m really happy with that and like I said, the way it went is very encouraging.

Mawson believes that the win over League Two opposition will serve as a good confidence boost heading into Saturday’s tricky trip to the south coast to take on Brighton and Hove Albion.

You’ve got to show respect to whoever you’re playing. They’re here for a reason, they’ve done well in the last round and lower league teams up their game [in this competition]. Fair play to them, but tonight was a really professional job on our behalf and I’m really proud of the lads.

The ball-playing centre back is hopeful of making a strong contribution as he rediscovers his match sharpness and praised Fulham’s fitness staff for ensuring his return to first-team action went so smoothly.

The club have put together a programme for me and I’ve stuck to it. For the last week I’ve been in full training. It was always the aim to get out there as quick as I can. The lads done brilliantly on Sunday and all things are going well at the moment. Getting through tonight is good for confidence, it’s a morale booster for everyone – especially the fans. Saturday is going to be a big task, but I think the lads will have more than enough if we play like we did the other day.

Kebano could have ‘ligament damage’

Fulham winger Neeskens Kebano could have had sustained ankle ligament damage after being stretchered off in tonight’s League Cup win over Exeter City.

The Congolese international looked in considerable pain after being unintentionally caught on his ankle by Aaron Martin’s follow through after the Grecians centre back blocked Kebano’s shot towards the end of Fulham’s victory. Kebano immediately fell to the turf, clutching his ankle and was carried off following treatment on the pitch from the Fulham physios.

Jokanovic told his post-match press conference that it was too early to accurately assess the extent of the damage, but he hoped that the 26 year-old, who has suffered from a number of injuries since moving to Craven Cottage, was not badly hurt.

He switched the ankle and we must still assess him, I cannot give you more information. t could be some ligament damage but I don’t know, we must assess him.

Jokanovic seeks ‘further improvement’

Slavisa Jokanovic was pleased that Fulham progressed in the League Cup tonight by seeing off Exeter City – but has urged his side to strive for further improvement.

The Serbian head coach praised the Whites’ ambition after watching his team defeat their League Two opposition comfortably, courtesy of two goals from French forward Aboubakar Kamara – but he told his post-match press conference that he had identified a number of areas where Fulham should be looking to improve:

I must be happy with the ambition we showed today. We wanted to fight and compete in the game. We are in some kind of the process, we need to look a little bit better in possession and not complicate our life, show a little bit more quality on the pitch.

It’s part of the process, like I’ve said before. We need to improve. We are going in the normal way and we expect that in the next round we can play better football still than today. Tactically we need to improve. We need to know our positions better, I need more people in the box, I need us to play with less touches. The process is never finished – we need to try and improve and improve and improve.

Jokanovic made eleven changes from Sunday’s victory over Burnley and reiterated the importance of giving some of the first team squad’s fringe players an early season run out.

We played two days ago and I didn’t see any sense in playing any players who featured two days ago. I used some players who didn’t have so many chances at the beginning of the season. Now we are a bigger squad and I have the space to use more people in different competitions. I try to find logic when I am working and for me there was logic using the players I did today.

The Fulham boss singled out debutante Alfie Mawson for particular praise after the former England under-21 international came through his first start since a summer move from Swansea City unscathed.

Alfie Mawson came in for his debut and put in an assured performance. He also had no adverse reaction to his recent injury, playing more minutes than were initially scheduled. He showed quality, he showed experience. I had the plan to bring him off after 65 minutes, and in the end he had 10 minutes more.

He adapted himself with the team very well, and showed he will be a great addition for us. He probably needs a little bit more time to be 100 per cent fit, but he showed today that he can be part of the squad in the league. Ahead of us is three training sessions. He showed a good level and after three and a half months this is his first game.

Jokanovic insisted that it was too early to say whether Mawson would keep his place in the starting line-up when Fulham travel to the AMEX Stadium to take on Brighton and Hove Albion this weekend.

We are happy how he adapted himself with us. He showed he’s strong, he’s solid in the air. He knows how to play football, and he is going to be a good addition for us. I have three days more to think about my team and choose what I think is the best option for us when fighting for the points against Brighton,

Kamara brace sends Fulham through

A brace from Aboubakar Kamara either side of half-time was enough for Fulham to overcome a youthful Exeter City and secure a place in the third round of the League Cup at Craven Cottage tonight.

The French forward, offered an opportunity to impress when Slavisa Jokanovic fielded an entirely different side from the one that recorded the Whites’ first Premier League win of the new campaign against Burnley on Sunday afternoon, demonstrated impressive agility to fire the home side ahead after just four minutes and then kept his cool when released by a fine through ball from skipper Stefan Johansen to double the lead three minutes into the second half. Fulham could – and perhaps should – have won by a greater margin against spirited League Two opposition, but Exeter had their moments and retained a laudable commitment to playing attractive and enterprising football.

Jokanovic will have been pleased that his side avoided an exit at the hands of lower league opponents, something they failed to do last season – when they bowed out at this stage to Bristol Rovers. There was an encouraging debut for £15m centre back Alfie Mawson, who looked commanding if short of match sharpness after recovering from knee surgery, and positive cameos from a number of his fringe players. The victory was marred by a serious looking injury to the lively Neeskens Kebano, who was stretchered off with possible ankle ligament damage.

Fulham got off to the perfect start inside the first five minutes when Republic of Ireland international Cyrus Christie surprised Christie Pym by shooting from the right angle of the penalty area and Kamara made no mistake with an instinctive volley into the top corner from the rebound. It might have been two three minutes later when Ryan Sessegnon surged forward from left back and sent a fizzing drive fractionally wide of the far post.

Matt Taylor’s side certainly didn’t try and put eleven men behind the ball and played some pretty football of their own. The Grecians, roared on by a vociferous band of nearly 1,500 travelling supporters, nearly got a reward for their positivity when Ibrahama Cisse was punished for overplaying in front of his back four and Matt Jay’s low strike from distance beat Sergio Rico and rattled the base of the far post. That scare galvanised the home side and Kebano spurned two good chances before the break, with Pym fielding a tame shot at his near post, before the Congolese winger spooned an effort over the bar from a good position inside the penalty area.

The hosts made the best possible start to the second period – their second goal owing much to Mawson’s calmness in possession as he began a sweeping counter-attack with a raking forward ball. Johansen had a couple of options to ponder over as he moved over the half-way and played the perfect pass allowing Kamara to accelerate away from the Exeter defence. The former Amiens forward showed commendable calmness in front of goal, slotting an unerring finish inside the near post with the outside of his foot, to put Fulham in complete control.

He then turned provider – making an intelligent run to latch onto another forward ball and unselfishly laying it off for Kebano, who got underneath his shot and sent it into the Hammersmith End. Exeter, who were bolstered by the introduction of the impressive Hiram Boateng in midfield at half-time, still looked to get men forward whenever possible and the Whites were indebted to a smart block from the retreating Calum Chambers as Jay appeared ready to pull the trigger inside the Fulham box.

The Premier League still saw the majority of the ball and went in search of a third goal. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s lovely spin and pass released Sessegnon down the left and when the teenager’s low cross was diverted goalwards by Rui Fonte at the near post it looked a certain third – until Pym somehow parried the ball to safety. Kebano had a shot bravely blocked at source by Aaron Martin but the Fulham winger looked in serious pain immediately as he fell to the turf and was stretchered off after receiving treatment on the field.

Anguissa should have registered his first senior goal in the closing stages but he contrived to lift his close-range finish over the bar after Pym had scrambled across his line to turn Johansen’s curling free-kick onto the post. The Cameroonian international created another chance for himself in the last minute of normal time when he drove towards the Exeter box before unleashing a powerful strike that Pym juggled, before claiming as it bounced up off the turf.

Jokanovic will have a few selection issues to mull over ahead of Fulham’s trip to Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend, with Mawson’s integration into the side a priority once he is deemed ready to reacquaint himself with the rough and tumble of the Premier League. Kamara may well consider himself unfortunate not to get a look in on the south coast after this sharp display.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Rico; Christie, R. Sessegnon, Chambers, Mawson (S. Sessegnon 75); Cisse, Anguissa, Johansen; Kamara, Kebano (de la Torre 74), Fonte. Subs (not used): Fabri, Bryan, Odoi, McDonald, Mitrovic.

GOALS: Kamara (4, 48).

EXETER CITY (3-4-3): Pym; O’Shea, Croll, A. Martin; J. Oates, Tillson, L. Martin (Boateng 45), Holmes (Sparkes 55); Jay, Abrahams (Taylor 69), Collins. Subs (not used): Hamon, Sweeney, Hartridge, Stockley.

BOOKED: Collins, O’Shea, Abrahams.

REFEREE: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).

ATTENDANCE: 9,333.

Cairney and McDonald named in Scotland squad

Alex McLeish has named Fulham duo Tom Cairney and Kevin McDonald in his Scotland squad for the forthcoming international fixtures against Belgium and Albania.

Fulham skipper Cairney has been handed a recall to the senior squad after missing the summer internationals against Peru and Mexico having scored the winner in the Championship play-off final. The 27 year-old was taken towards the end of yesterday’s win against Burnley following a heavy challenge, but Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic confirmed that Cairney merely rolled his ankle and was withdrawn as a precaution.

Cairney is joined in the senior squad by holding midfielder Kevin McDonald, who returned to the Fulham line-up yesterday, and will be hoping to add to his solitary international cap.

Mitrovic salutes Fulham’s style

Aleksandar Mitrovic believes Fulham’s fluid style of football will help them plenty of points during the course of the Premier League campaign.

The Serbian striker grabbed a brace in the space of two first-half minutes as the Whites earned their first win of the season in an absorbing encounter with Burnley at Craven Cottage yesterday afternoon. Mitrovic, who now leads the top flight scoring charts with three goals, also feels that Fulham’s faith in the system adopted by head coach Slavisa Jokanovic will prove pivotal by the end of the campaign.

He told the press after the final whistle yesterday:

It was a tough game. Burnley play really tough. A lot of goals but I enjoyed the three points. Every goal is a nice goal, great feeling but the most important thing is we grab the three points and give the fans a nice afternoon.

“We have so many new players, they came from different leagues and some don’t speak English but this is the best league, we want to stay with the best and we will work hard to do that. No matter what we do, we will stick to our system and that will give us more confidence to stay in this league

Fulham 4-2 Burnley: Player ratings

Sarah runs the rule over some fine performances as Fulham recorded their first Premier League win in four years yesterday …

Marcus Bettinelli: Football’s a funny old game. Just two weeks ago, it looked as if Bettinelli would be frozen out after the Whites signed two senior goalkeepers and now he has returned from the cold to keep goal in the Premier League. He had little to do here, in truth, with Burnley’s two goals being their only shots on target and he was left helpless for both of them. Jokanovic clearly wants a keeper comfortable with the ball at his feet and there were early signs that Bettinelli still struggles to fulfill this requirement. There’s hesitancy in his distribution and several of his early passes went into touch – and it will be interesting to see how the goalkeeping situation resolves itself. 6

Timothy Fosu-Mensah: An energetic and enterprising display from the Manchester United loanee, who was once again preferred to Cyrus Christie at right back. He showed an eagerness to get forward from the off and displayed a blistering turn of pace in the final third that Fulham could yet utilise to their advantage. Fosu-Mensah was solid defensively and read the game well, but like most modern full-backs offered real value as an overlapping attacking. His crossing proved more dangerous than Christie’s and one splendid low centre narrowly eluded Andre Schurrle and Aleksandar Mitrovic in the second half. 7

Denis Odoi: The Belgian was recalled to the heart of the Fulham back four following his suspension and Calum Chambers’ below-par display at Wembley. He is still very much a makeshift centre back and can struggle to convince at this level, but managed to nullify Chris Wood’s physicality for the most part. Although it was Maxime Le Marchand who gave away the ball for Burnley’s equaliser, Odoi was slow to shuffle across and read the danger, ultimately leaving Bettinelli unsighted for Hendrick’s first shot. 6

Maxime Le Marchand: This was probably the Frenchman’s least assured of his three Premier League outings to date. He has been superb since stepping into the Fulham defence but was badly culpable for Burnley’s first goal, gifting the Clarets possession on the halfway line with a sloppy pass. Did little else wrong, making a couple of excellent recovery tackles to thwart potential danger and switched to left back for the final quarter of the contest after Joe Bryan went off. 6

Joe Bryan: Another excellent display from the left back, who has shown little sign of being daunted by the step up to the top flight after arriving on deadline day from Bristol City. Got forward to great effect and dovetailed nicely with Luciano Vietto down that flank, providing him with the pass that began the move for Fulham’s first goal. Positioned himself well defensively and seems a solid acquisition with scope for improvement, who already looks comfortable at Craven Cottage. 7

Kevin McDonald: The Scottish international was restored to the starting line-up to face his former club having missed the meeting with Spurs last weekend – and delivered another composed performance at the base of the Fulham midfield. Didn’t need to snap into too many tackles to break up Burnley attacks, but his reading of the game and positioning remained spot on. A reassuring pressure in front of the back four, McDonald know hows he will need to be on top of his game as Anguissa adapts to English football. 7

Tom Cairney: The Fulham captain was a little quieter than usual at the heart of the midfield, but was by no means poor. Produced a brilliant floated ball that looked to be straight from the Motspur Park training ground routines for Mitrovic’s first goal from a cleverly worked short corner and found the room to run at the Burnley defence as the game became open in the second half. Substituted as a precaution following a late challenge from Charlie Taylor, but Jokanovic revealed that he should be available for the trip to Brighton on Saturday. 7

Jean-MIchael Seri: The Ivorian already appears a cut above as a classy orchestrator of possession in the Fulham midfield, with his quick movement of the ball, and his exceptional footballing brain. He produced a moment of genuine quality to put the Whites ahead, with an exocet from long-range that left Joe Hart beaten just four minutes in – the kind of effort that the Whites have seemingly been reluctant to take on in recent years. But with the low centre of gravity reminiscent of Mahamadou Diarra and some of the vision that reminds you of Mousa Dembele, Seri has all the attributes to be a star. 8

Andre Schurrle: The German was determined to make his point after being recalled to Jokanovic’s first eleven yesterday afternoon and buzzed around with intent from the off. You can see his quality in the driving runs from midfield he makes and how he darts into dangerous central areas – as will as some of that vision to release team-mates. Schurrle seems to be full of confidence and looked to test Hart at every opportunity, hitting eleven shots during the contest, but it appeared as though it wouldn’t be his day until the former England goalkeeper turned Mitrovic’s effort onto the post and the winger rifled in the rebound. 8

Luciano Vietto: The Argentinian was handed a surprise start at the expense of Ryan Sessegnon on the left of Fulham’s front three and turned in an excellent performance on his full debut. He might look a little lightweight for the rough and tumble of the Premier League, but Vietto’s intelligent runs and clever use of the ball shows just how he could fit into Jokanovic’s plans. Vietto was bright throughout and floated in an inviting cross for Fulham’s third goal – the high point of an energetic display. 7

Aleksandar Mitrovic: On this form, the £22m Fulham paid Newcastle to finally secure the Serbian’s services this summer looks a snip. There have been question marks about his ability to score goals at this level but Mitrovic seems to thrive on proving the doubters wrong. He already has three – topping the Premier League’s goalscoring charts – and he bullied the Burnley centre halves throughout. He buried two headers but his all-round play was far more significant, with intelligent movement and the ability to play in others. Unfortunate not to claim a memorable hat-trick late on. 9

Substitutes:

Calum Chambers (on for Joe Bryan, 72): Sent on to sure up the Fulham defence for the final quarter of the contest as Joe Bryan tired and didn’t let anybody down. 6

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (on for Tom Cairney, 78): Showed plenty of promising touches during a late camera that also features such driving running from deep and a penchant for pulling the trigger. Anguissa will need to smooth out some of the overplaying that got himself into trouble against Tottenham, but proves much-needed competition for McDonald in front of the back four. 6

Ryan Sessegnon (on for Andre Schurrle, 88): Gareth Southgate’s scouting trip afforded him just two minutes of seeing the wonderkid, who was a late substitute for the excellent Andre Schurrle. 6