Two goals in three first half minutes from Kostas Stafylidis and Hugo Rodallega secured a straightforward win for Fulham at Crawley Town this afternoon.
Crawley, who featured former Fulham defender Dean Leacock at the heart of the back four and ex-Fulham forward Collins John as a substitute, began brightly but Felix Magath’s side gradually got a grip of the game and took the lead when one of the German head coach’s summer acquisitions Kostas Stafylidis fired in a stunning opener. The Greek left back turned provider shortly afterwards – crossing for Hugo Rodallega to score from close range.
Both sides had chances to add to the scoreline but no more goals were forthcoming, although Moussa Dembélé went close for the Whites when his powerful effort struck the bar before appearing to cross the line – no goal was given though.
Fulham controlled possession in the opening stages but the home side were keeping their shape well and the first attempt on goal was a speculative one from Rodallega four minutes in, but his effort from 25 yards sailed wide.
Crawley won a free-kick in a wide position three minutes later following a meaty Tim Hoogland challenge on Gwion Edwards, and Jesse Joronen had to be on hand to palm away Jimmy Smith’s subsequent set-piece.
The best chance of the game so far fell the way of the energetic Rodallega on 17 minutes. Having collected a square ball from Lasse Vigen Christensen in the box, the striker dummied to shoot to beat his man and move the ball onto his left foot, but the shot that followed lacked control and whistled beyond the angle of crossbar and post.
Shortly after, the Colombian went even closer. Ryan Williams caught Joe Walsh in possession and fed Cauley Woodrow, who spotted Rodallega in space to his left but, after steadying himself, the frontman saw his powerful low effort pushed behind by Brian Jensen.
In what was an entertaining game, Crawley were next to try their luck and perhaps should have broken the deadlock when Izale McLeod escaped his marker but nodded wide from eight yards.
After a water break on 25 minutes owing to the humid conditions, Fulham upped the tempo and Jensen was soon forced to make another good stop, this time getting down to repel Christensen’s bending effort.
The breakthrough that the Whites had been threatening arrived just after the half hour mark. Rodallega slipped a ball between two defenders to the unmarked Stafylidis who rifled a brilliant shot beyond Jensen and inside the far post for his second goal in as many pre-season games.
The Greek youngster had shown plenty of attacking prowess in his performances to date, and he was involved again moments later as the Whites doubled their lead, squaring a low ball for Rodallega who slammed beyond the exposed Jensen.
It then looked as though Williams had made it three, but his wicked left-footer from range just missed the target with Jensen beaten.
After holding their own for so long, Crawley now looked unable to cope with Fulham, although they did find some respite a minute before half-time with some time spent in the visiting penalty area. First, Conor Henderson lofted an effort over, before a McLeod penalty shout fell on deaf ears following a tumble with Cameron Burgess. The same man then called Joronen into a rare save, but the Finland international comfortably held his strike.
Felix Magath made a raft of changes at half-time, among them the introduction of Adam Taggart for his first Fulham appearance.
Four minutes after the restart McLeod drew a smart low stop from Marcus Bettinelli – one of four half-time changes – although if it had gone in the referee could have claimed the assist after deflecting the ball kindly into the striker’s path.
Direct running from Williams then culminated in him finding substitute Dembélé in the area. The young Frenchman drove in a vicious shot which was deflected over, before glancing wide his header from the resultant corner.
A slick Alexander Kacaniklic pass on 58 minutes found the intelligent run of Taggart but the young striker’s effort flashed across the face of goal.
On the hour mark a familiar face entered the field of play, with former Whites forward Collins John – currently on trial with the Reds – taking the place of McLeod.
It was another Crawley substitute who almost got them back in the game, though, with Bobson Bawling’s scrambled effort deflecting an inch wide of the post.
David’s deliveries have caused plenty of issues for opposition sides so far this pre-season and he almost claimed another assist on 65 minutes when his corner was met by Shaun Hutchinson, only for the attempt to fly just over the bar.
Dembélé came so close to adding his name to the scoresheet on 69 minutes when he met Kacaniklic’s cutback first time, only to be denied by the crossbar. The ball had bounced down and appeared to cross the line, but it wasn’t given.
Patrick Roberts came on for David two minutes later and caused problems almost immediately – robbing Smith and then drawing a foul from the former Chelsea man.
A John header with three minutes remaining following a corner caused some concern in the Fulham penalty area, but Elsad Zverotic was able to boot away the danger from near the line, before Emmett O’Connor just cleared Bettinelli’s crossbar with a firm strike minutes later.
CRAWLEY TOWN (4-3-3): Jensen (Spiegel 45); Oyebanjo (Lindsay 79), Leacock (Bradley 74), Joe Walsh (Essam 74), Dickson (Childs 86); Henderson (Marsden 65), Simpson (Richefond 80), Jimmy Smith; Young (O’Connor 70), Edwards (John 60), McLeod (Bawling 60). Subs: Collins, Isaacs.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Joronen (Bettinelli 45); Hoogland, Hutchinson, Burgess, Stafylidis; David (Roberts 71), Parker (Kacaniklic 45), Christensen, Ryan Williams (Zverotic 54); Rodallega (Dembele 45), Woodrow (Taggart 45). Subs (not used): Stockdale, Amorebieta, Burn, Grimmer, George Williams, Hyndman
GOALS: Staflydis (32), Rodallega (35).