Fulham’s preparations for their Premier League return suffered a setback tonight after they were beaten by Serie A side Sampbdoria at Aldershot when a Fabri howler was punished by a fine finish from Gaston Ramirez.
The Spanish goalkeeper, a summer signing from Besiktas, had little to do all evening but dallied in clearing the ball from his six-yard box late on, playing a couple of short passes and then played Ibrahima Cisse into trouble on the edge of the Fulham penalty area and the former Southampton midfielder Ramirez curled home a terrific strike from just outside the box. It was unfortunate way for an evening of experimentation to end for Slavisa Jokanovic, whose side where more than a match for their Italian opponents, and a youthful starting eleven probably edged the first half.
Jokanovic opted to pair Marlon Fossey and Steven Sessegnon, who are probably competing to be the back up to Cyrus Christie at right back this season, on opposite sides of the back four and both did not look out of place in their most strenuous pre-season test to date. Fossey was full of running down the right flank, often overlapping to good effect, whilst Sessegnon – in the slightly less familiar left back role that was later filled by his twin brother Ryan – delivered a creditable performance. Most of Fulham’s spark came through the lively Andre Schurrle, who darted in dangerously from the right flank, in a sparky display.
The Whites enjoyed most of the early possession but struggled for a cutting edge with Rui Fonte largely anonymous up front. Ibrahima Cisse, who offered a nudge to his manager with a strong display in front of the back four, came closest to scoring of anybody in the first half, sending two rising drives from outside the box fractionally over the Sampdoria crossbar. Schurrle showed a couple of great touches to find Sessegnon in an advanced position down the left but the full back’s cross was volleyed clear by Jakub Jantko. The first half was also notable for an eye-catching cameo from American youngster Luca de la Torre, who threatened down the Fulham right.
Sampdoria fleeting served notice of their attacking intent. Maxime Le Marchand did well to deal with a dangerous cross from Ramirez midway through the first period and forward Gianluca Caprari might have given the visitors the lead but his curling effort from the edge of the box flew fractionally wide of Fabri’s far post. The Italians improved after the break almost taking the lead when Fabri scrambled across his goal-line to push out an Omar Colley header from a corner and they kept the ball much more efficiently throughout the second 45 minutes.
Marlon Fossey almost provided the opener for Fulham after a bright run and low cross down the right flank forced Dennis Praet to intervene but the Belgian defender almost prodded the ball past his own goalkeeper. As it happened, the loose ball flashed across the six-yard box, past the recently introduced Aleksandar Mitrovic and away to safety. Sampdoria should have hit the front with twenty minutes to go when Jankto somehow managed to head an inviting cross from Jacopo Sala wide at the far post instead of into the bottom corner.
Then came Fabri’s fatal mistake. The goalkeeper invited pressure on the Fulham back line by playing a couple of dangerous passes to Denis Odoi at incredibly acute angles and once he had played Cisse into a bit of difficulty, the blue Samp shirts swarmed all over to win the ball back. Ramirez’s strike was a thing of beauty – bending viciously on its way into the top corner – and was worthy of winning any game. Fulham rallied and might have found an equaliser when Jean-Michael Seri’s sumptuous ball over the top unlocked the Sampdoria defence but Aboubakar Kamara’s attempt at a finish at the far post was desperate and the ball flew behind for a goal kick.
Jokanovic’s side finish their pre-season schedule at home to Celta Vigo at Craven Cottage on Saturday before opening their Premier League campaign against Crystal Palace a week later. The Serbian head coach still has a few conundrums to solve before picking his starting eleven to face Roy Hodgson’s side, but this was a useful workout against strong opposition.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Fabri; Fossey (Christie 73), S. Sessegnon (R. Sessegnon 73), Odoi, Le Marchand (Ream 62); Cisse, McDonald (Seri 62), Cairney (Johansen 45); de la Torre (Kamara 73), Schurrle (Kebano 62), Fonte (Mitrovic 62). Sub (not used): L. Ashby-Hammond.
SAMPDORIA (4-3-1-2): Audero (Belec 72); Sala (Bereszynski 72), Murru (Tavares 72), Andersen (Leverbe 88), Colley (Ferrari 63); Barreto (Linetty 63), Praet, Jankto (Verre 78); Ramirez (Rolando 88); Kownacki (Stijepovic 78), Caprati (Defrel 63).
GOAL: Ramirez (79).
I hate to be critical of any Fulham player, especially one so early in his Fulham career but I’m yet to be convinced about the goalkeeper. He juggled a cross in Germany and was badly at fault for the goal last night. Perhaps it is overconfidence or insistence from Slavisa to play out from the back, but I worry that this could be a problem in the Premier League.