A moment of magic from Ivan Cavaleiro clinched back to back wins for Scott Parker as Fulham recorded an impressive 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town tonight.
The Portuguese winger settled the contest with a stunning curler from the edge of the box that left the outstanding Kamil Grabara clutching at thin air with ten minutes to play. Cavaleiro’s first goal for the Whites was enough to secure an encouraging away win from a contest that Fulham had dominated, but were pegged back when Karlan Grant’s second half header threatened to punish the Londoners for their profligacy.
Parker had made one change from the side that had recorded their first win of the season last weekend against Blackburn, handing teenage defender Steven Sessegnon his first league start at right back. The visitors were indebted to the youngster’s quick thinking when he bravely blocked a venomous drive from from Lewis O’Brien. Huddersfield were after a quick start, but instead they grew gradually into a contest that began with patient Fulham probing.
Parker’s side spurned several good openings in the first half. The lively Anthony Knockaert posed Huddersfield problems throughout and when Grabara clawed away a dangerous low cross, Stefan Johansen teed up Cavaleiro, who steered a shot disappointingly wide of the far post. A lovely one-two between Johansen and Joe Bryan sent the left back surging into the Huddersfield area but he opted to try and beat Grabara at his near post when the better option might have been a pull back for the unmarked Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Huddersfield had ended the first period the stronger with a number of threatening raids down the right from full back Florent Hadergjonaj but, after a stern half-time talking to from Parker, Fulham emerged full of intent. Both Mitrovic and Knockaert spurned decent chances before the Serbian striker was denied by a smart block from Christopher Schlinder and drove the rebound over the crossbar.
Fulham’s pressure was building, but when the breakthrough came it owed much to a mistake from Juninho Bacuna. The Huddersfield midfielder was trying to prevent a through ball from reaching Cavaleiro by the byline but he ended up hooking the ball inviting across his own goal, allowing Mitrovic to outjump Tommy Elphick and head home from three yards out.
But Fulham contrived to throw away their advantage just six minutes later. Hadergjonaj powered down the right and sent over a dangerous cross which former Charlton forward Grant met with a powerful header from eight yards. The ball ricocheted off the post and over the line via Marcus Bettinelli’s body – and belief suddenly surged through the John Smith’s Stadium.
Parker has built his side to attack and Fulham went straight back to it. A beautifully weighted pass through the heart of the Huddersfield defence sent Knockaert scampering clear but Grabara surged his line to block the French winger’s finish and preserve parity. The Fulham manager certainly wasn’t settling for a point – sending on Bobby Decordova-Reid to add to his side’s attacking arsenal and the red shirts began to swarm around the Huddersfield box.
It needed a moment of real quality to beat the inspired Grabara and Cavaleiro, who had been largely anonymous in a diffident first half, provided it. Taking advantage of the extra yard provided by Bryan’s decoy run on his outside, the on-loan Wolves winger bent a beautiful finish around Grabara and into the top corner to restore Fulham’s lead. They might have stretched their advantage when Decordova-Reid found some space in the penalty area, but the Huddersfield goalkeeper pulled off another smart save.
Town piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but the only moment of real alarm came in stoppage time when Terence Kongolo muscled his way onto a long ball from O’Brien at the back post but his attempted cross lacked the power to reach Grant and was gratefully smothered by Bettinelli. This defeat meant a brittle Huddersfield side have managed just four wins in 51 competitive games, but an early sacking would be exceptionally harsh on the likeable Jan Siewert, who inherited a thankless task in the second half of last season.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-3-3): Grabara; Hadergjonaj, Kongolo, Elphick, Schindler; Bacuna (Chalobah 54), Hogg, O’Brien; Kachunga (Mounie 83), Pritchard (van La Parra 84), Grant. Subs (not used): Schofield, Bockhorn, Diakhaby, Quaner.
BOOKED: Kachunga, Hogg.
GOAL: Grant (57).
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; S. Sessegnon, Bryan, Mawson, Ream; Arter, Johansen (Decordova-Reid 76), Cairney; Knockaert (Le Marchand 90), Cavaleiro (Reed 84), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Christie, McDonald, Kamara.
BOOKED: S. Sessegnon, Mawson.
GOALS: Mitrovic (51), Cavaleiro (80).
REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).