Rui Fonte and Ryan Sessegnon bagged a pair of braces as Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham stretched their unbeaten run to seven Championship fixtures by brutally burying Burton Albion at Craven Cottage this afternoon. The much-maligned Portuguese forward, who had scored once in his first twelve appearances since his summer switch from Braga, seized his chance to shine and could have completed a first half hat-trick as the Whites made it a miserable hundredth game in charge for Burton boss Nigel Clough.
Fulham had made a fast start, taking the game to their visitors, but their initial forays were repelled by Burton’s flat back five. The hosts’ breakthrough arrived on eighteen minutes after Luke Murphy’s loose pass was collected by Ollie Norwood and the Northern Ireland found birthday boy Lucas Piazon, whose clever first touch and acceleration carried him clear of the Burton defence in an instant. The Brazilian raced through on Stephen Bywater and unselfishly squared for Fonte to roll a simple finish into the unguarded net.
The goal galvanised the hosts and a second might have come four minutes later. Piazon spread the play beautifully for Sessegnon, whose rasping drive stung Bywater’s hands, and the pair were to become increasingly influential as the afternoon went on. The Chelsea loanee lined up on the right of a fluid front three but darted inside leaving oceans of space for Ryan Fredericks to exploit on his excursions forward from right back, whilst Sessegnon crept into a number of threatening central positions from the left. The teenager created Fulham’s next opening with a low cross that eluded Stefan Johansen and Fonte before Piazon was robbed before being able to strike at goal.
Fredericks then skied two efforts over the bar – including one when Piazon looked unselfishly for the full back when he could have gone for goal himself – but the pair were soon to combine beautifully for Fulham’s second. Found by Norwood’s searching pass, Fredericks breezed past Tom Flanagan and cut the ball back to the edge of the box. Burton’s defenders bought a dummy from Johansen, whose step over created the extra seconds for Piazon to pick his spot from fourteen yards, for his first goal in five months after battling back from a horrendous leg break at Leeds.
Another Fredericks cross set up the third – seven minutes before half time – when the speed merchant’s floated delivery found Fonte, who showed real physicality and persistence, to shrug off the attentions of John Brayford and Jake Buxton and prod home his second from point blank range after his header had been bravely blocked.
The second half felt a little anti-climatic after the electricity of those fifteen minutes before the break. Burton looked to restore some pride and Flanagan fired into the Hammersmith End after Martin Samuelson’s centre had been nodded down to him by Sordell. Tom Naylor’s through ball almost released Lloyd Dyer behind the Fulham back line but the underemployed Marcus Bettinelli averted the danger with a diving header.
Fulham’s attacking instincts were reawakened by the introduction of Tom Cairney from the substitutes bench and the Whites found a fourth with another lovely move down the right. A low Fredericks cross came for Johansen and when the Norwegian’s shot was blocked, Sessegnon stroked home authoritatively from close range – just as he had last season against the Brewers.
The seventeen year-old demonstrated his predatory finishing ability again when drove home an eighth goal in his last eleven outings when another deflected Johansen drive fell his way and Fulham weren’t finished there. A hungry Aboubakar Kamara had already been foiled by Bywater, but the Albion keeper was beaten for the sixth time in the last minute. Cairney’s defence-splitting pass sent the ex-Amiens forward clear on goal and Kamara produced the deftest of dinks to complete the rout.
At times Fulham’s football was sublime – and hinted at a return to the mesmerising way in which they climbed into the top six with Championship winning form in the second half of last season. They will need to pass tougher tests then this to remain in the promotion picture but this was a scoreline that, echoing Norwood’s words following last weekend’s win at Middlesbrough, might just make the rest of the division pause for thought.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Fredericks, Odoi, Kalas, Ream; McDonald, Norwood (Cairney 64), Johansen; Piazon (de la Torre 81), R. Sessegnon, Fonte (Kamara 75). Subs (not used): Button, S. Sessegnon, Djalo, Kebano.
GOALS: Fonte (18, 38), Piazon (34), R. Sessegnon (72, 79), Kamara (89).
BURTON ALBION (5-4-1): Bywater; Flanagan, Akins, Brayford (Akpan 70), Buxton, McFadzean; Samuelson (Sbarra 78), Naylor, Murphy (Allen 64), Dyer; Sordell. Subs (not used): Campbell, Lund, Palmer, Vardy.
BOOKED: Murphy, Samuelson.
REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).