Aleksandar Mitrovic won’t have many worse days than this. He skimmed the top of the crossbar with a penalty and, after Fulham had taken the lead through a superb strike from Ademola Lookman, conceded the spot-kick that allowed Sheffield United to equalise with five minutes to play before missing a couple of glorious chances to grab the Whites’ first Premier League win in stoppage time at Bramall Lane. Given what the Serbian has produced during his time at Craven Cottage, it seems churlish to chastise this contribution – but his anguished look after the final whistle told you that the talismanic number nine knew he should have secured a precious three points.
Once the frustration subsides, there will be plenty of positives to take from this trip to Yorkshire for Scott Parker. Dealt a blow in the build up to this meeting between two of the division’s pointless sides by an untimely ankle injury to Joachim Andersen, the Fulham boss opted to hand a Premier League debut to Tosin Adarabioyo, who showed a composure beyond his tender years to display the sort of assurance that had many at Manchester City disappointed to lose him in the last hours of the transfer window. Fulham showed laudable fortitude to shrug off the disappointment of Billy Sharp’s leveller with five minutes to go and finish the more likely winners, qualities that will be needed as they continue to battle against the drop.
The visitors began brightly, with a snapshot from Tom Cairney forcing an early save out of Aaron Ramsdale, but it was the Blades who carried the greater attacking threat for much of the first period. Sander Berge gradually began to pose considerable problems by drifting into pockets of space in front of the Fulham back four and, after Chris Basham dragged his effort across the face of goal following a surging run from the Norwegian, Ollie McBurnie spurned a succession of good chances. He had a header clawed away from six yards out by Alphonse Areola in the Fulham goal and sent another effort wide, whilst Berge and a rampaging Enda Stevens also tested the goalkeeper’s handling with low drives.
Fulham, who had been restricted to speculative efforts with a rasping drive by Mitrovic from a well-worked free-kick fielded by Ramsdale, were much more progressive after the break. Lookman found plenty of space to influence proceedings down the left, even if the penalty that gave the visitors a golden chance to take the lead came out of nowhere with substitute Jack Robinson inexplicably using his hand to prevent Ruben Loftus-Cheek from connecting with Ivan Cavaleiro’s corner. The hosts’ got a huge reprieve when Mitrovic went for power from the spot and saw his rising effort clip the crossbar on its way over.
The visitors were beginning to shut down the acres of space that Sheffield United had enjoyed during the first half and should have gone in front when Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, excellent again at the heart of the Fulham midfield, seized on a slack pass and burst down the middle before releasing Cavaleiro down the right flank. The winger’s cut back looked destined for Loftus-Cheek or Lookman but Jack Robinson made amends for his earlier mistake with a perfectly timed interception. Chris Wilder sent on Rhian Brewster for his top flight debut, it was Fulham who hit the front courtesy of a moment of magic from Lookman.
The lively winger darted inside Berge on the edge of the box and carried the ball past Basham’s attempted challenge at pace before firing an unstoppable finish past Ramsdale high into the net. It was the sort of individual brilliance that the former Charlton academy prospect has been threatening in a couple of impressive cameos since he arrived on loan from RB Leipzig earlier this month and was his first Premier League goal since his debut for Everton in January 2017.
Parker’s men weren’t able to hold on for the win, however. Mitrovic was penalised for bringing down Jack Robinson in the box as he battled to clear a Sheffield United free-kick, with Martin Atkinson awarding the penalty after viewing the pitchside monitor on the instructions of the video assistant referee. Sharp, thrown on just four minutes earlier, made no mistake with the spot-kick – driving his finish straight down the middle to level matters.
At that point, you might have feared the worse for Fulham given the way their return to the Premier League has gone so far. But it was Parker’s side who pushed more convincingly for the winner. Lookman had another rasping drive blocked bravely by Basham, before Adarabioyo headed wastefully over from the corner, and Mitrovic – now certain that it wasn’t going to be his day – failed to find the target with a pair of headers in injury time after inviting crosses from Lookman and Cairney.
SHEFFIELD UNITED (5-3-2): Ramsdale; Lowe (J. Robinson 18), Baldock, Stevens, Egan, Basham (Sharp 81); Norwood, Berge, Lunstram; McBurnie, McGoldrick (Brewster 64). Subs (not used): Verrips, Ampadu, Osborn, Burke, Sharp.
GOAL: Sharp (pen 85).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Anguissa, Cairney; Cavaleiro, Lookman, Loftus-Cheek (Lemina 81); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Le Marchand, Bryan, Decordova-Reid, Kebano, Kamara.
BOOKED: Anguissa, Cavaleiro.
GOAL: Lookman (77).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).