Man-to-marking after Fulham come from behind to see off Sunderland in a nervy display at Craven Cottage last night …
Marcus Bettinelli: The Fulham goalkeeper didn’t have an awful lot to after picking Joel Asoro’s superb strike out of his bottom corner. He had little chance with the stunning effort that gave Sunderland a lead their excellent start more than merited and Bettinelli’s early distribution seemed a little off-colour as the visitors pressed high. The Fulham academy graduate marshalled his defence impressively and made one smart save in the second half. 7
Ryan Fredericks: An all-action display from the rampaging Fulham full-back that fully justified the Sky Sports man of the match award. Fredericks burst forward to great effect, dovetailing impressively the substitute Aboubakar Kamara down the right hand side, and giving poor old Marc Wilson a torrid time throughout. The pair linked up effectively for Fulham’s equaliser, which arrived at the perfect time just before the break, and Fredericks continued to be a real offensive option throughout a second period that the home side thoroughly dominated. If that is to be his last appearance at Craven Cottage in a Fulham shirt, he picked a hell of a way to sign off.
Matt Targett: The Southampton loanee seemed a little below par in the early stages with a couple of missed tackles and poor passes. He was beaten by Asoro for the Sunderland goal and came off worse following a tussle between the pair just before the teenager drove that unstoppable shot beyond Marcus Bettinelli. Tried gamely to carry on despite picking up a painful ankle injury before finally admitting defeat five minutes before half-time. The Fulham medical staff now face a race against team to get the left back fit for the final day showdown at St. Andrew’s.
Denis Odoi: Another excellent display at the heart of the Fulham back four for the versatile Belgian. Odoi initially struggled to pick out the intelligent movement of Sunderland’s lone striker Ashley Fletcher, but he grew in confidence as the game went on. Proved himself to be strong in the air even though he appears to be on the short side for a conventional centre back and his ball-playing prowess is so well-suited to Jokanovic’s total football approach. Odoi’s emergence as a genuine option at centre back remains one of the stories of this incredible unbeaten run. 7
Tim Ream: Not the American’s most commanding of performances in his outstanding season, but there were enough reminders of Ream’s understated class when he turned away from blue shirts with such ease even though there appeared to be no way out. Fulham’s night could have been so different had referee Peter Bankes penalised his trip on Ovie Ejaria right before the equaliser, but the former Bolton defender got away without conceding a penalty. It was much easier for Ream during a second half that Fulham throughly dominated – and his reading of the game and distribution from the back stood out. 7
Kevin McDonald: The Scottish international was a picture of rage and frustration for much of the first half before Lucas Piazon’s timely equaliser. With Fulham failing to find their usual fluency, McDonald was forced to snap into far too many tackles to bail his side out, even if he was caught the wrong side of the ball when Asoro latched onto Fletcher’s intelligent flick and found the bottom corner from a fair way out. The former Sheffield United and Wolves midfielder kept driving Fulham forward until Mitrovic headed them in front with fourteen minutes to play. 7
Stefan Johansen: Not the Norwegian midfielder’s finest hour, but he kept on running throughout what threatened to be a really frustrating evening. Struggled to find his usual range of passing with a number of wasteful balls characterising a disappointing side from Jokanovic’s side as the Whites were suffocated by the number of blue shirts Sunderland got behind the ball. Drove Fulham on to a much more dominant display after the break, with his work rate coming to the fore. Delivered a perfect free-kick right on to Mitrovic’s head to give the home side the lead. 6
Tom Cairney: A quiet evening for the skipper, who seemed to struggle for rhythm after being clattered by a late tackle in the early exchanges. Just as he seemed certain to put the home side in front in first half stoppage time, Lamina Kone arrived to produce the perfect goal-saving tackle and Cairney came off worse in that collision as well. Retreated to a deeper role as Sunderland pressed the ball impressively for much of the first half, but became more influential after the interval. Almost curled in a brilliant strike from the edge of the box as Fulham pressed for a winner. 6
Lucas Piazon: The Brazilian might have scored the equaliser at the end of the first half, but this was a workmanlike rather than inspired performance. Piazon has struggled for form of late but demonstrated the kind of character that makes him such a favourite of both Slavisa Jokanovic and the Fulham faithful by dropping into the left midfield role after Matt Targett’s untimely injury. Did well to provide plenty of defensive cover for Ryan Sessegnon before being replaced by Rui Fonte for the final quarter of an hour. 6
Ryan Sessegnon: This wasn’t the kind of performance to set pulses racing but then it would be so surprise if the talented teenager was feeling the after-effects of featuring in every league game this season. The seventeen year-old struggled to get beyond Billy Jones into attacking positions for much of the first half before slotting back into the left back position that he had vacated around the turn of the year when Targett went off injured. Could have conceded a penalty for handball shortly before Mitrovic’s winner. 6
Aleksandar Mitrovic: The Serbian striker struggled for service during a first half where he was largely anonymous, but it was little surprise that the on-loan Newcastle forward eventually popped up to score against the Magpies’ biggest rivals. Grew into the game as Fulham got more of a foothold in the contest and some of his lay-offs to link the play reminded me of Bobby Zamora in his prime. Gave the Sunderland centre backs a real going over and crowned a far more effective second 45 minutes with the matchwinning header at the far post from Johansen’s free kick. 7
Aboubakar Kamara (on for Matt Targett, 40): It is no exaggeration to suggest that Jokanovic’s bold decision to send on the French forward for his injured left back changed the course of a contest that seemed to be slipping away from Fulham. Kamara was fired up from the off and his pace and power posed problems for Marc Wilson throughout. He linked up impressively with Ryan Fredericks for the Fulham equaliser and continued to be the home side’s most likely source of a goal in the second half. He was fouled on the edge of the box for the free-kick that led to Mitrovic’s winner and might have had a goal himself but for a superb reaction save from Jason Steele at his near post. 8
Rui Fonte (on for Lucas Piazon, 74): The Portuguese forward might have been a surprise replacement for Piazon but he put himself about effectively in the final quarter of hour. He darted in field to give Sunderland’s tiring defenders something else to think about and drifted dangerously in between the lines. The former Braga forward is now certainly Jokanovic’s third choice forward but he showed enough intelligence and desire this evening not to be discarded during the summer. 6
Tomas Kalas (on for Tom Cairney, 90): The Czech centre half was sent on to shore on Fulham’s defence during injury time just when the Whites appeared vulnerable to conceding another late, late sucker punch and did his job effectively. 6