Fulham Under 18’s overcame their first real test this morning, narrowly beating astrong Man City team to maintain their 100% record this season.
The home side welcomed back Emerson Hyndman who had to settle for the bench after a rampaging performance at Middlesbrough last week. Oberschmidt continued in goal behind a back four of Donnelly, Passley, Arthurworrey and Jordan Evans who continues to keep Tom Richards out of the lineup. George Williams continued his Fulham life on the left wing, with young Patrick Roberts starting on the opposite side before he joins up with the England under 16’s for their victory shield outing against Northern Ireland this Thursday (be sure to tune in to Sky Sports 2 to check that out). In the centre it was a balancing act, as Solomon Sambou would offer the holding role to Lyle Della-Verde’s marauding forward penetration. Captain Cauley Woodrow and Muamar Tankovic would continue up top after superb performances last week and the continued absence of Moussa Dembele.
A subdued start burst into life after Pat Roberts drove at the opposition left back and forced a free kick, which was delightfully curled into the box for Woodrow to meet with a strong header and force a great save from Lawlor in the City goal. It wasn’t long before Roberts was playing a part in the attack, releasing a ball through to Woodrow who just didnt quite go direct enough and had to settle with a strike from a tight angle which Lawlor was more than equal to. It wasn’t long before we saw the repeated diagonal balls from both Passley and Arthurworrey cause danger, Passley first up to find Williams who controlled well and slid inside for Tankovic to swivel neatly and curl a shot just wide of the far post.
The opening goal of the game came down the lively right hand side, where Roberts seemingly set the defender up to fail. For the first time he ducked outside of his man to reach the byline and fire across the 6 yard box, with Woodrow doing very well to adjust quickly and tame the cross into the back of the net. Fulham 1-0 Man City.
Passley again fired a familiar diagonal ball to the marauding Jordan Evans to cross for Woodrow. His turn in the box gave space for him to smash the bar with his weaker left foot. Not long after this, and some dangerous moves down either flank for the away team they were dealt a blow, when a long clearance from Oberschmidt was contested fairly by Woodrow and City skipper Swan, only for Swan to land awkwardly and have to be replaced by Murray.
By this point Fulham were starting to get going and had a few crosses down the left as well as the now familiar mazy dribbles down the right hand side from Roberts, but Man City’s good pressing wasn’t allowing the home side the complete domination they had seen last week against Middlesbrough, Della-Verde in particular getting caught on the ball a couple of times in dangerous positions.
The City pressing almost paid dividends when Passley was put under pressure allowing City possession, he did well to recover and block one attempt on the edge of the box, only for it to drop to not one, but two City players on the 6 yard line with only the keeper to beat. A miscued finish left the ball to trickle into the German keepers’ arms.
Fulham responded again down the right with Roberts who found Woodrow to unleash another left footed shot just over the bar this time. Tankovic was to fire across the box in the next couple of minutes after good work down the opposite side. These two half chances were followed by what was some questionable decision making by the away team. It was Josh Passley who slipped and forced a weak ball back to Oberschmidt, the keeper being decisive to come and clear only for his clearance to ricochet off the City striker into the path of a City player some 30 yards out with the goal gaping. Instead of the obvious long range attempt he chose to slide it wide to the striker but just overhit the ball and allowed Fulham to recover.
Oberschmidt was called into action again after a City corner dropped to them on the edge of the box, only for the shot to be met by a strong keepers’ hand and be pushed away from danger.
There was just about time for Williams to drive into the box before half time, beating a couple of players but in the end only forcing the corner.
Half Time : Fulham 1 Man City 0
Fulham made a half time change, Hyndman coming on for Passley, with Sambou slotting into central defence and Hyndman recomencing his partnership with Della-Verde in central midfield.
The opening moments of the 2nd half bought half chances for either team, Evans crossing only for the City keeper to withdraw his hand and allow Tankovic an unexpected chance. Unfortunately he couldnt adjust quick enough and the attempt was put over. Straight down the other end for City as Bytiqi’s cruyff pass found Barker who slid the ball through Sambou’s legs to go through on goal, but opting to cut back to beat another man instead of taking on the shot with only the keeper to beat.
Roberts floated in and out of the second half, his first forray of the second half leaving Della-Verde to cross for Woodrow, who’s spectacular volley was met well by the City keeper.
Not long after that the home sides lead was doubled. George Williams showing that intensity withouth possession that summarised City’s first half play to win the ball high up field and cut back for Della-Verde. The midfielders loose touch set the perfect run up for his own shot, somewhat of a howitzer as he cut across the ball releasing a curling effort into the top corner, perfectly moving away from the keeper who stood no chance from the 25 yard smash. Fulham 2-0 Man City.
The pace really slowed after this, Fulham perhaps believing the game was won, and City reeling somewhat after their high work rate out of possession in the first half. Their reaction was to bring on spritely Nemane for Hutton.
The ref wasn’t helping the flow of the game though, a couple of times deciding not to play advantage when Tankovic was in good positions on both occasions. Though one free kick was fired low by Della-Verde, confident after his previous successful long-range attempt, only for the keeper to pull off a decent save.
It didn’t take long for the City sub to put his stamp on the game, with City breaking at pace from a Fulham corner and Byrne finding Nemane who was able to cut across Evans in his drive into the box, and place his shot high into the corner of the net. Fulham 2-1 Man City.
Bytiqi was inches away from latching onto a through ball seconds later, with Oberschmidt quick off his line again to avert the danger, with Wigley raging on the sidelines at the Fulham backline to get tight to their men.
Wigley’s raging sparked something, great work from Woodrow to salvage a really poor ball from Williams. The winger redeemed himself when Woodrow found him and the subsequent drive into the box, after beating a couple of defenders allowed Tankovic to steal in and fire low in the opposite direction, wrong-footing the keeper who just got a hand to it but couldn’t stop the Swede’s neat strike. Fulham 3-1 Man City.
Roberts, who had just drifited out of the game was soon after replaced by O’Halloran, who lost the ball early on and allowed City to break, Sambou on hand to cynically foul the breaking City forward. The resulting free kick was ballooned over everyone and out for a goal kick. Della-Verde down the other end showed how it’s done, finding Woodrow who could only glance just wide after the referee again decided against playing advantage.
Man City set up a nervy ending to the game, with Arthurworrey passing straight to a City player to release the right winger who had lost Jordan Evans, the Welshman still adjusting to his new left back role and maybe not yet as defensively switched on to the danger. The resulting drive down the line and cross was met by Nemane’s head at the far past for his second, this time having switched to the left for his goal. Fulham 3-2 Man City.
It was Donnelly taking one for the team next time out, Della-Verde caught on the ball again forcing the Irish right back to abruptly halt the City attack with a strong challenge as the home side were struggling to retain possession and City finding their second wind to set up a nervy ending to the match for the home side.
Some late probing was just about seen out, with City working the ball across the field well but struggling to find that killer pass to carve out an equaliser. The referee’s final whistle a welcome relief for the home side, who maintained their 100% record this season and overcame their strongest opposition yet. In reality, neither team really got going on the day but Fulham would feel the win was deserved as they carved out plenty of chances with City lacking a final ball or that bit of craft to truly unlock a strong defence, albeit they managed to take some advantage of Passley, who was dominant and composed, leaving the field at half time.
Full Time : Fulham 3 Man City 2.
Fulham : Oberschmidt; Donnelly, Passley (Hyndman), Arthurworrey, Evans; Roberts (O’Halloran), Della-Verde, Sambou, Tankovic, Woodrow. Subs not used : Norman, Richards, O’Reilly
Man City : Lawlor; Tattum, El-Fuitori, Swan (Murray), Smith-Brown; Horsefield, Byrne, Hutton (Nemane), McHale; Bytiqi, Barker. Subs not used : Jones, O’Brien