Aleksandar Mitrovic admitted that he felt like crying after failing to score with any of his eight efforts this afternoon – and it was easy to see why. The Serbian striker came close to grabbing a late winner when Connor Coady cleared his scuffed shot off the line, but Fulham’s frustration at letting a valuable lead slip was evident. They squandered several glorious first-half chances and couldn’t cling onto the advantage handed by them by substitute Ryan Sessegnon, with Romain Saiss stroked home his first Premier League goal with six minutes left.
At least the point lifted Claudio Ranieri’s men off the foot of the table, but with a rare win in sight, the late setback felt like a defeat. Both sides took a while to settle in the day’s early kick off and referee Andre Marriner waved away a convincing shout for handball from either side. Wolves had the earliest chances but were far from their fluent best, with Adama Traore showing signs of that blistering pace when he darted into the penalty area from the right but skied his shot from the edge of the box. Raul Jimenez then fashioned a chance for himself out of nothing with some incredible agility, but his bicycle kick didn’t come close to troubling Sergio Rico either.
Fulham eventually got going and most of their chances fell the way of Mitrovic, who wore the captain’s armband after Tom Cairney was dropped to the bench. He saw an early shot bravely blocked by Ryan Bennett and then headed wide at the far post before placing a near-post header from a cleverly worked corner just wide of the near post. He found half a yard to latch onto a promising Andre Schurrle cross, but an untimely heavy touch took him away from goal and he blazed high into the Putney End.
The home side’s football was enterprising in the final third and Mitrovic’s strength and movement was causing the Wolves back line all sorts of problems. He powered a header straight at Rui Patricio before the Portuguese goalkeeper fielded tame efforts from the former Newcastle striker and Schurrle. Fulham looked to have opened up Wolves decisively after a fabulous one-two between Cyrus Christie and Aboubakar Kamara released the Irish international in the penalty area but the low cross agonisingly eluded Mitrovic as he slid it at the back post.
Wolves looked potent on the break with the lively Jiminez almost taking advantage of a defensive mix-up and surprising Rico with a venomous shot at his near post, but Fulham then fashioned the clearest chance of the first half. Mitrovic turned Willy Boly and Coady inside out but shot straight at the onrushing Patricio, when he appeared to have most of the goal to aim at. You felt Fulham were going to pay for their wastefulness in front goal, especially as Wolves had looked a shadow of the side who had so worried Liverpool before Christmas.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side certainly stepped it up a gear in the second half. Joao Mountinho, who had played a subdued holding role in the first half, became much more prominent after the break and Wolves began to exert a hold on proceedings. Jiminez guided a header from Johnny Otto’s cross straight at Rico before the Spanish goalkeeper repelled his clever curler from the edge of the box and Bennett drilled a long-distance effort over the crossbar, but Fulham’s new-look back three held firm. They were supported by a well-drilled midfield, marshalled superbly once again by Calum Chambers, but struggled to create chances as they had done in the first period.
Sessegnon, introduced midway through the second half for Schurrle who had faded badly, made an immediate impact. He almost laid on a goal for Kamara, but Boly diverted a dangerous cross away from the French forward just in the nick of time. There was no escape for Wolves a couple of minutes later. Jean Michael Seri’s floated free-kick located Alfie Mawson in space at the back post and when Patricio could only punch the loose ball clear, Sessegnon hammered home his first Premier League at Craven Cottage through a crowd of bodies.
Fulham’s relief was tangible but they elected to try and shut up shop inside of seeking a second. With Cairney already curiously occupying a position on the right wing, Ranieri sent on Kevin McDonald in place of Seri to try and tighten things up, but a lack of a focal point in midfield ended up inviting more Wolves pressure. The visitors sent over a succession of crosses and eventually found an equaliser with six minutes left. Saiss had a simple finish after Joe Bryan made a hash of clearing Ivan Cavaleiro’s cross when he appeared destined for Helder Costa.
There were still chances for both sides to win in. Tim Ream made a superb block in stoppage time and Mitrovic, racing onto an outstanding long ball from Rico, looked set to clinch a valuable victory when he muscled his way into the box. His finish trickled excruciatingly towards the corner, but Coady made a superb recovery and hooked the ball away to safety. It proved to be just one of those days.
FULHAM (3-4-3): Rico; Odoi, Mawson, Ream; Christie, Bryan, Chambers, Seri (McDonald 82); Kamara (Cairney 73), Schurrle (R. Sessegnon 67), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Le Marchand, Ayite, Vietto.
BOOKED: Chambers, Christie.
GOAL: R. Sessegnon (74).
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (3-4-3): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Jonny Otto (Ruben Vinagre 82), João Moutinho, Saïss; Traoré (Cavaleiro 45), Gibbs-White (Helder Costa 63), Raul Jiminez. Subs (not used): Ruddy, Kilman, Neves, Bonatini.
GOAL: Saiss (85).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).