A second half strike from Alexei Smertin secured another pre-season win for Lawrie Sanchez as Fulham triumphed 2-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion tonight.
The Whites had to come from behind after some slack defending at a corner allowed Jake Robinson to give Brighton the lead in the third minute when the Fulham defence had failed to react to Guy Butters’ flick on. The former Portsmouth defender might have made it two during a torrid start for the visitors, but Aaron Hughes got his body in the way of a goalbound shot.
Brian McBride rattled the base of the post with a firm drive as Fulham finally threatened the Albion goal, but that was a rare excursion into the final third for the Londoners with Antti Niemi having to save smartly from Alex Revell after a lightning fast break. Michel Kuipers then made an excellent save to claw away a downward header from Clint Dempsey after the American midfielder had climbed highest to meet a cross from Simon Davies.
Fulham were forced into a change in goal with Niemi in obvious discomfort after claiming a high ball and the Finnish keeper was replaced by Tony Warner. The away side knitted together some more progressive moves into the final five minutes. Davies robbed Joel Lynch of possession and fed McBride, whose low shot was tame, before Papa Bouba Diop was denied from 25 yards by another excellent Kuipers save.
Sanchez’s side drew level on the stroke of half time. Kuipers was helpless this time after Dempsey raced through on goal and rounded the Brighton goalkeeper to equalise after being sent clear by a fine pass from Diop. There were definite suspicions of offside but the equaliser was allowed to stand.
Fulham made several changes at the break and they were far stronger in attack in the second period. Diomansy Kamara’s pace fashioned an early chance for Moritz Volz but the German’s venomous drive was charged down. Former Brentford forward Nicky Forster dragged a shot across the face of goal before Zat Knight headed a dangerous Albion cross over the bar.
The visitors were beginning to play better passing football with substitute Smertin to the fore. The Russian midfielder, excellent in anchoring the engine room, grabbed the decisive goal with a firm low shot from the edge of the box with twenty minutes remaining after he followed up a blocked effort from Kamara. Bas Savage posed a few problems for Fulham late on and Dean Hammond squandered a glorious chance in the last minute, heading over at the far post after good approach play from the Brighton substitute.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION (4-4-2): Kuipers; Whing, Rents, Butters, Lynch; El-Abd, Hammond, Robinson, Cox; Forster, Revell.
GOAL: Robinson (3).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi (Warner 25); Baird, Koncheksy (Bocanegra 45), Hughes (Quedrue 45), Pearce (Knight 45); Diop (Smertin 45), Davis (Timlin 45), Davies (Rosenior 45), Dempsey; McBride (Kamara 45), Healy (Ehui 45).
GOALS: Dempsey (44), Smertin (71).