Tom Cairney played 40 minutes as a Fulham side were well beaten by Premier League Southampton in a friendly at Saints’ Staplewood training ground earlier today.
The Fulham skipper, who missed the Whites’ latest league defeat at leaders Wolves on Friday night, came through this hastily-arranged behind closed doors fixture with no complaints but Fulham’s adventurous style saw them picked off easily by their hosts. The tone was set just thirty seconds in when Oriel Romeu punished some ponderous Fulham passing on the edge of their own box and curled a gorgeous effort around a helpless Marcus Bettinelli into the top corner.
Fulham had a decent spell of pressure after going behind with Cairney seeing a shot blocked and Aboubakar Kamara’s header from a corner pushed away by Stuart Taylor. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side failed to take their chances and were swiftly punished by a rapid Southampton break. Romeu located James Ward-Prowse with a searching crossfield ball and former QPR forward Charlie Austin sauntered around Bettinelli to double Saints lead when he was supplied by the England under-21 international.
Austin had his second five minutes later when Yohan Mollo inexplicably handled the ball at a corner – with the striker sending Bettinelli the wrong way from twelve yards. Steven Sessegnon, who attacked with intent down the right flank throughout, sparked Fulham’s first attack for a while with a powerful run but Rafa Soares’ drive was turned aside by Taylor.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg punished some lethargic defending six minutes before the break to make it four and Austin completed a clinical hat-trick just before the hour mark when he nodded home a floated cross from the left. Fulham kept going to the end with Ryan Fredericks, Michael Madl and Tyrese Francois all going close before Bettinelli made a sprawling double save to deny Austin and Ward-Prowse in quick succession.
The visitors did get something of a consolation when Ibrahima Cisse burst away from his marker to power home Matt O’Riley’s corner – but it proved another chastening afternoon for Fulham.
SOUTHAMPTON: Taylor; Pied, Stephens, Gardos (Bakary 69), Targett; Romeu (Obafemi 69), McQueen; Ward-Prowse, Højbjerg, Redmond; Austin.
GOAL: Romeu (1), Austin (21, pen 26, 59), Hojbjerg (39)
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon, Madl (Graham 65), Djalo, Soares (Odoi 40); Cisse, Cairney (Francois 40), McDonald (O’Riley 40); Mollo (Fredericks 40), Kamara (Fonte 40), Graham (de la Torre 40).
GOAL: Cisse (84).