A splendid strike from Lucas Piazon set a youthful side on their way to the second round of the Carabao Cup as they eventually brushed aside a spirited challenge from League Two Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park.
Just as in the corresponding fixture in this competition two years ago, the Championship side had to wait until well into the second half to make their quality count. Brazilian forward Piazon, who is at the start of a second successive season on loan from Chelsea, drove home a terrific strike from around 25 yards into the top right hand corner of Scott Brown’s goal and the opener visibly relaxed the visitors. Fulham made sure of their progression with nine minutes to play when Denis Odoi glanced home Piazon’s corner with a clever header at the near post.
Jokanovic had stayed true to his mantra of blooding youngsters in this competition and made eleven changes from the side that had started the Championship campaign with Saturday’s frustrating draw against Norwich City. There were full debuts for Marek Rodak in goal, Steven Sessegnon at right back and Marcelo Djalo at the heart of the defence, whilst the eye-catching O’Riley also made his professional bow after featuring prominently under Jokanovic during pre-season. Both Aboubakar Kamara and Cauley Woodrow started in an offensively-minded side – and Fulham made all of the early running.
The Championship outfit fashioned the game’s first opportunity on eight minutes when O’Riley’s precise corner was headed towards goal by Odoi, only for Brown to make a smart save. Wycombe were competitive and tried to get the ball down and play, but their best chances came from set plays. Max Muller will feel he should have done better than send a free header from Joe Jacobsen’s free-kick over the crossbar and, later in the half, Rodak comfortably fielded a long-range drive from Michael Harriman.
Fulham carried the greater threat going forward with the rampaging Odoi denied once again by Brown before defenders desperately flung their bodies in front of efforts from Woodrow and O’Riley. Kamara looked lively but struggled to find a yard of space inside the box with his best moment almost laying on a tap-in for Woodrow. The former Luton Town striker should have put Fulham ahead just after the break but scuffed horribly wide after being found by an intelligent cut-back from Odoi.
At the other end, Jokanovic’s side survived a couple of close shaves. Wycombe substitute Nathan Tyson nearly reached a cross from the evergreen Paul Hayes, but Rodak bravely fisted the ball away from danger. The loose ball dropped to Marcus Bean around fifteen yards, but the midfielder’s shot screwed wretchedly wide. The hosts were to pay for that miss when first Piazon – and then Odoi – seized their chances to underline Championship superiority in the score line.
Ainsworth’s men almost produced a riposte in the dying embers of the contest. Tyson drew a superb reaction save from Roadk and then Jacobsen and Matt Bloomfield were also denied by Fulham’s young goalkeeper. Rodak could point to a number of excellent saves and a clean sheet as he started his senior career in just the way he would have wanted to. Fulham missed some opportunities in the final three minutes of injry-time, with Ryan Sessegnon and Odoi going close again.
WYCOMBE WANDERERS (4-3-3): Brown; Harriman, Jacobson, Muller, Al-Hbt; Bean, Bloomfield, Dan Rowe; Cowan-Hall (Tyson 45), Hayes (Akinfenwa 72), Williams (Freeman 74). Subs (not used): Jombati, Gape, Richardson, Southwell.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; S. Sessegnon, Odoi, Madl, Djalo; Edun, Cisse, O’Riley (R. Sessegnon 82); Piazon, Woodrow, Kamara. Subs (not used): Button, Kalas, Norwood, Johansen, Ayite, Aluko.
GOALS: Piazon (67), Odoi (81).
REFEREE: Gavin Ward (Surrey).