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Claudio Ranieri was delighted with Fulham’s fighting spirit after the Whites shrugged off the setback of conceding an early goal to beat Southampton and move off the bottom of the Premier League table.

The Italian admitted that his first game in charge of his new side was an emotional moment, but professed himself pleased with the focus and desire of his players. Ranieri felt that his team had made ‘little steps’ in terms of improving some of the problems that have dogged their faltering start to life back in the top flight, but recognised that Fulham’s first victory for more than three months will lift morale around the club.

He told his post-match press conference:

For me to come back to the Premier League is emotional. For me to come to Fulham is emotional. Emotions were high. It was an important match, and everybody is pleased, but it’s a little step – it’s not an easy job. I was waiting for this kind of match and it was very difficult. Southampton are a good team, and we’re in a bad position. We suffered a lot, but I’m very pleased with my players because they never gave up and fought.

We wanted to win, we showed very good fighting spirit, and our energy levels were high. I asked the players to fight until the end. After the first goal, I wanted to see our reaction and it was amazing. I’m very pleased with our fans too, they supported us until the end.

Ranieri was disappointed with the amount of scoring opportunities the Whites offered Southampton and lavished praise on Spanish goalkeeper Sergio Rico who pulled off a number of outstanding saves.

We played a good match but gave too many chances to our opponents. Of course, I want a clean sheet and want to improve our defensive work. The whole team has to maintain the right position. I always want more. Rico had to make too many saves and I don’t like it when our goalkeeper has to work too much.

He also had high praise for Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose double eventually proved decisive, and scotched any suggestions that the former Newcastle forward wouldn’t fit into his long-term plans.

For me, Mitrovi? is one of the best strikers in Europe. He’s only 24 and I think he can improve more and more. At the end of the season, you’ll see how many goals he’ll score.