Alex Kacaniklic’s third goal of the season sealed an impressive win over Arsenal for Fulham’s reserves at Motspur Park.
The Swedish midfielder, who has been in fine form for Billy McKinlay’s side this season, struck shortly after half-time when he capitalised on a poor clearance from Elton Monteiro. The former Liverpool winger burst past Gavin Hoyte and beat ?ukasz Fabia?ski with a low shot from the edge of the box. It was no more than Fulham deserved for their endeavour and enterprise, having recovered their composure after Arsenal had enjoyed a period of domination during the first half.
The Whites began brightly with Bjorn Helge Riise, who was playing again in the unfamiliar role of right back, crossing for Kacaniklic but the Swede couldn’t force the ball home. Arsenal, without a win since November, began to get into their stride with skipper Ignasi Miquel spooning a shot over from a corner and Craig Eastmond driving wide after a clever piece of interplay with O?uzhan Özyakup. Striker Sanchez Watt, back in the Gunners’ second string after completing his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday, then shot straight at Csaba Somogyi. The Hungarian goalkeeper then smothered a weak finish from Jernade Meade before Fulham applied some pressure as the first half drew a close.
Pajtim Kasami, who hasn’t made a first team appearance since his Boxing Day cameo at Chelsea, was at the heart of Fulham’s best moves as he got forward to regularly to support Marcello Trotta up front. The Swiss midfielder drove wide after being found by the Italian and then curled a terrific free-kick just past the post before seeing an athletic overhead kick brilliantly turned aside by Fabianski. The Polish keeper also kept out Trotta before half time, whilst Somogyi had to be alert to deny Watt from eight yards out at the other end.
Kacaniklic’s goal was the perfect start to the second half for McKinlay’s side. The 20 year-old, who also has ten assists to his name for the reserves this season, has been on the fringes of the first team this campaign, having been named on the bench for the League Cup tie at Stamford Bridge in September and if he keeps up these performance levels should be in contention for another call-up soon.
The Whites continued to press with the impressive Trotta, rumoured to be heading out on loan to a Championship side later this week, almost doubled Fulham’s lead on the hour after a flowing move but Fabanski saved his shot. Rafik Halliche, who looked composed for much of the evening at centre back, was almost an unlikely scorer but his deflected free-kick spun just wide. Aside from an encouraging Simon Davies burst, though, Arsenal dominated the closing stages, having been perked up by a few second-half substitutions.
Josh Rees shot straight at Somogyi from the edge of the box and the other substitute Kyle Ebecilio caused Fulham some real problems with his intelligent running. He was almost played in by Özyakup but Somogyi showed good awareness to sprint from his line and clear the danger. Arsenal’s final chance arrived with seven minutes to play when Watt failed to make the most of a fine cross from Martin Angha, heading over the bar.
The reserves are back in action against Wolves on Monday at AFC Telford.
FULHAM RESERVES (4-2-3-1): Somogyi; B.H. Riise, Briggs, Halliche, Burn; Harris, Gecov; Davies, Kasami, Kacaniklic (A. Smith 76); Trotta. Subs (not used): G. Smith, Pritchard, Donegan, Altman.
GOAL: Kacaniklic (49).
ARSENAL RESERVES (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Hoyte, Miguel, Angha, Monteiro; Eastmond, Özyakup; Ryo (Rees 67), Gnarby (Ansah 55), Meade (Ebecilio 67); Watt. Subs (not used): Martinez, Wynter.