Emiliano Marcondes dealt Fulham’s fading hopes of automatic promotion a potentially fatal blow as he stepped off the bench to make one late goal and score another as Brentford won the west London derby at Craven Cottage this afternoon. The result sees Thomas Frank’s side move to within one point of the Whites, with Leeds and West Bromwich Albion able to extend their advantage over the course of the weekend.
Just as a tight derby was coming towards its conclusion, Marcondes produced two moments of magic to turn the game in Brentford’s favour. Only introduced with twenty minutes to play, the Danish midfielder drifted into space down the right flank and whipped in a devilish cross that Ollie Watkins couldn’t turn home, but Said Berahma converted gleefully at the far post after ghosting in behind Denis Odoi. Fulham’s defence were flatfooted at the crucial moment – but worse was to come less than a minute later.
Not content to protect their slender lead with time ticking down, Brentford went for the kill. Marcondes surged through the remannts of the Fulham defence and kept his cool as white shirts flooded back to try and close him down, cutting inside before firing a powerful drive past the helpless Marek Rodak to make sure of the points. Frank’s substitutions turned a game that was firmly in the balance – with Scott Parker far too slow to react as the visitors began to gain a foothold in midfield.
Fulham had more than enough chances to make their fast start count. Bobby Decordova-Reid rattled the angle of post and bar with a rising drive after a beautifully disguised reverse ball from Harrison Reed, who was by far the home side’s most impressive performer. It was no surprise that Brentford’s matchwinning moments arrived after he had been replaced in the closing stages. Anthony Knockaert curled an effort agonisingly wide from the edge of the box, whilst Aleksandar Mitrovic saw a close-range header well held by David Raya.
Raya also produced a splendid save to keep out an instinctive Mitrovic header from Joe Bryan’s floated cross in the second period and the Serbian also had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, but Fulham’s talimansic striker was far too isolated up front for long periods. Tom Cairney had little influence on proceedings and just went the home side appeared ready to mount a sustained spell of pressure midway through the second half after another Mitrovic chance, the momentum melted away.
Parker will face the tough task of picking up his players as they prepare for crunch fixtures against Leeds and Queens Park Rangers in quick succession – but it looks increasingly likely as though Fulham will have to settle for the play-offs for the third time in four seasons.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Rodak; Odoi, Bryan, Hector, Ream; Reed (Arter 80), Cairney, Decordova-Reid (Johansen 89); Kebano (Cavaleiro 72), Knockaert (Jasper 89); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Sessegnon, Christie, Le Marchand, McDonald, Arter, Johansen, Jasper.
BRENTFORD (4-3-3): Raya; Dalsgaard, Henry, Jansson, Pinnock; Nørgaard, Jensen (Marcondes 70), Dasilva (Valencia 85); Fosu (Baptiste 70), Benrahma, Watkins. Subs (not used): Daniels, Thompson, Mokotjo, Devisoglu, Jeanvier, Baptiste, Roerslev.
BOOKED: Dasilva, Marcondes.
GOALS: Benrahma (89), Marcondes (90).
REFEREE: James Linington (Newport).