Ange-Freddy Plumain scored as Fulham’s Under 21s opened their U21 Premier League campaign with an entertaining draw at Southampton this afternoon.
The French winger’s clever finish looked as though it might be enough to ensure Kit Symons’ took all three points with them back to London but Southampton’s new signing Saphir Taider wasted little time in hitting straight back. Taider, who was making his first start in a Saints’ shirt since completing a loan move from Inter Milan, equalised just three minutes after Plumain’s strike punishing a poor clearance.
Southampton fielded a strong side, including several players who had featured regularly in the first team’s pre-season programme, and made the quicker start. Omar Rowe and Sam McQueen went close with early headers and Taider drove an effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box after a clever turn. At the other end, Italian striker Marcello Trotta will feel he should have done better than to lash over the bar when Ryan Tunnicliffe’s corner landed at his feet.
The second half followed a similar pattern with plenty of pretty football but little in the way of penetration. Southampton substitute Josh Sims saw a dangerous cross well blocked by Jack Grimmer and Rowe sent the rebound wide of goal. Jake Flannigan’s deflected shot drifted wide and a Sims effort was smartly saved by Marek Rodak in the Fulham goal. Trotta carried Fulham’s goal threat but Paolo Gazzaniga was equal to his instinctive attempt.
The Whites took the lead after Trotta pressurised the Southampton defence into relinquishing the ball and the striker’s through ball released Plumain who kept his cool to drive a low finish past Gazzaniga. But Taider’s response was swift as he jinked from side to side after receiving Jason McCarthy’s pass before powering his strike beyond Rodak.
Symons was in philosophical mood afterwards, telling the official website:
It was a good game between two good teams who really went at it. Possibly a draw was a fair result but I felt we probably shaded it on chances.
What I’m disappointed with is that we got our noses in front but couldn’t hang onto it. Overall, though, it was a good game of football, performance-wise, and I’m quite happy. There’s certainly plenty to work on there but we’re just looking forward now to the Everton game next week.
SOUTHAMPTON UNDER 21s: Gazzaniga; Mason (Wood 79), McCarthy, Stephens, Targett; Reed, Flannigan, Taider, Sinclair (Sims 40); McQueen, Rowe. Subs (not used): Cropper, Seager.
GOAL: Taider (81).
FULHAM UNDER 21s: Rodak; Passley, Baba (Mesca 55), Grimmer, Arthurworry; Sambou (Smile 68), Tunnicliffe, Della Verde (Evans 85); Plumain, Richards, Trotta. Subs (not used): Barnes, Donnelly.
GOAL: Plumain (78).
REFEREE: Declan Ford.