It is hard to work out which is worse. The desolation of Fulham failing to move into the top six after Lucas Joao’s last-gasp equaliser in midweek or a play-off push being derailed as the Whites were outthought and outfought by relegation-threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
Wolves eased to a third consecutive victory under Paul Lambert and should now be safely secure in the Championship next season. They were in control once the recalled Ivan Cavaleiro steered home from six yards after excellent approach play by Helder Costa eleven minutes before half time. Andy Weimann doubled the lead when he was afforded the freedom of SW6 inside the Fulham area immediately after the interval and, although Denis Odoi pulled a goal back, Dave Edwards ensured the three points would be heading back to the Blackcountry – stabbing home Costa’s cross to the delight of the travelling fans.
It was a second successive victory in west London for Lambert, who masterminded a win at Brentford last week, and Wolves never looked seriously troubled after weathering an early spell of pressure from the hosts. Kevin McDonald, who moved to the Cottage from the Midlands last summer, might have made a difference had he headed Neeskens Kebano’s cross on target rather than wide – but it was the away side who carried the greatest threat in the final third, courtesy of a frightening front four comprising of Cavaleiro, Weimann, Costa and Ben Marshall.
It was Costa who wriggled clear of the white shirts and dug out a cross to give Cavaleiro the simplest of tasks to open the scoring from six yards out. The Portuguese winger couldn’t miss. Fulham roused themselves but their clearest opportunity fell the way of Sone Aluko, who stabbed tamely at Carl Ikeme on the stroke of half time. Slavisa Jokanovic sent on Cyriac, scorer of a fabulous goal against Blackburn in week, for McDonald but the alternation only seemed to hinder the home side’s search for fluency.
Instead of sparking a wave of attacks like early in the first half, Fulham were fitful and ceded the momentum to their opponents. Wolves took full advantage and went further ahead three minutes into the second period when Conor Coady teed up Weimann and the former Aston Villa forward bent in a brilliant finish from fifteen yards.
Jokanovic’s second change was more successful with Odoi surprising Ikeme with a low shot from outside the area to give Fulham home only seconds after the Belgian had replaced Ryan Fredericks. But the Whites couldn’t built on that shot in the arm and were kept at bay by confident retention of possession by Lambert’s side. Wolves looked the likelier to score again – and when they did, through Edwards’ easy finish after Costa had led the home defence a merry dance again, the contest had been killed off.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Button; Fredericks (Odoi 53), R. Sessegnon (Malone 80), Kalas, Ream; McDonald (Cyriac 45), Johansen; Kebano, Ayite, Cairney; Aluko. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Madl, de la Torre, Martin.
GOAL: Odoi (54).
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERS (4-2-3-1): Ikeme; Coady, Doherty, Baath, Hause; Evans, Edwards; Costa (Saville 79), Cavaleiro (Dicko 61), Marshall (Saiss 68); Weimann. Subs (not used): Lonergan, Williamson, Gibbs-White, Böðvarsson.
BOOKED: Cavaleiro, Evans, Coady.
GOALS: Cavaleiro (34), Weimann (47), Edwards (72).
REFEREE: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).