Aleksandar Mitrovic’s twelfth goal of the season helped Fulham to a gritty win over Birmingham City this afternoon in the teeming rain. The Serbian striker capitalised on an error from Blues’ goalkeeper Lee Camp, who spilled Cyrus Christie’s cross, clinically firing home the winner from close range. The only dampener on the afternoon for Scott Parker was Mitrovic’s fifth booking of the season – after a clash with Jude Bellingham – that rules him out of the upcoming local derby with QPR.
Mitrovic, who captained the side in the absence of the ill Tom Cairney, had a storming game up front for the visitors. He had a goal ruled out for offside after ten minutes and frequently linked up effectively with Bobby Decordova-Reid, who went agonisingly close to opening his Fulham account but steered wide on the stretch inside the six-yard box. After the break, Mitrovic did brilliantly to flick another ball into Decordova-Reid’s path but Camp stood up for long enough to repel the shot.
The decisive moment came seven minutes in the second half. Christie, on as an early substitute for Maxime Le Marchand, burst clear down the right flank but his cross appeared to be simple for Camp to deal with at the back post, only for the Northern Ireland international to fumble it and Mitrovic tucked away the loose ball with aplomb.
Fulham passed up several good opportunities to extend their lead. Camp let a Christie header spill out of grasp and Anthony Knockaert’s attempted chip deflected wide. The unlikely source of Denis Odoi almost supplied a second but his rasping drive from the edge of the box flew narrowly off target. Mitrovic created the best opening with a sublime through ball in the second minute of stoppage time, but Aboubakar Kamara was denied by an excellent save from Camp, who got a crucial touch to the Frenchman’s finish with his feet – diverting onto the base of the post.
At the other end, Marek Rodak, who came back in for Marcus Bettinelli after his suspension for being sent off at Middlesbrough, produced a mature performance to repel a lively Blues’ attack. The Slovakian made a smart save to deny left back Kristian Pedersen after three minutes and the home side stepped up the pressure after that in a ten minute spell when they penned Fulham back. Former Arsenal youngster Dan Crowley drilled over from twenty minutes and Rodak made a couple of good stops in quick succession as he fielded a shot from Kerim Mrabti and then pushed away Fran Villalba’s volley.
Birmingham pushed for an equaliser with sending on Jeremie Bela, who had joined on a free transfer in midweek, and Jefferson Montero. The latter almost produced a goal with his first touch as his floated cross found Lukasz Jutkiewicz at the far post, but Rodak reacted quickly to turn the striker’s header onto the crossbar. Fulham held firm during five nervy minutes of stoppage time to record their second clean sheet in as many away games and tiptoe into the top six.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-2-3-1): Camp; Colin, Pedersen, Roberts, Clarke-Salter; Sunjic, Bellingham; Crowley (Gimenez 64), Villalba (Montero 79), Mrbati (Bela 62); Jutkiewicz. Subs (not used): Trueman, Harding, Davis, Maghoma.
BOOKED: Bellingham, Clarke-Salter, Roberts.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Le Marchand (Christie 35), Mawson, Ream; Reed, Johansen, Decordova-Reid (Kamara 81); Knockaert, Cavaleiro (Onomah 66), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, McDonald, de la Torre, Kebano.
BOOKED: Mitrovic, Christie.
GOAL: Mitrovic (52).
REFEREE: Jarred Gillett (Australia).