Marco Silva might have been disappointed with his first taste of the Championship as Fulham were pegged back by Middlesbrough on Sunday, but his side more than made up for it with a sparkling showing in west Yorkshire this afternoon as they put five past Huddersfield. There were a couple of comical goals – Aleksandar Mitrovic’s first of the season owed move to some calamitous goalkeeping than his own predatory instincts and there was even a touch of fortune about Josh Onomah’s close range header that doubled the lead – but Fulham looked like a side totally transformed in the final third.
The visitors didn’t look like losing their lead after promising midfielder Fabio Carvalho flawlessly finished off a fine counter-attack just before half time and even made light of the controversial dismissal of Harry Wilson, with substitute Ivan Cavaleiro add two terrific finishes to make the scoreline even more overwhelming. It was a miserable return to the dugout for Terriers’ boss Carlos Coberan, whose Covid-ravaged side battled hard in the first half, but had no answer to Fulham’s fluent approach play.
It might have been different had Huddersfield not had an early goal chalked off for a very contentious offside. Onomah had drawn an excellent early save from Ryan Schofield, who endured an afternoon to forget in the home goal, but the hosts soon created an opening of their own as Sorba Thomas cut a ball back for Duane Holmes and Paulo Gazzaniga palmed the American’s effort aside. Fulham failed to deal with the ensuing corner and Matty Pearson blasted home – only for the home celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag. It looked like the visitors had definitely got away with one.
There was more good fortune for Fulham as they went ahead through one of the scrappiest goals Mitrovic will ever claim in the ninth minute. Thomas’ decision to float a pass all the way back to his goalkeeper from the halfway line looked ill-advised, but Schofield’s attempts to save a corner were shambolic. He succeeded in miscuing a clearance straight to Mitrovic, with the ball bouncing back into an unguarded net off the Serbian striker’s body – and possibly his arm – as he slipped during to put the goalkeeper under pressure. The goal stood and Mitrovic, who had looked a little off the pace against Middlesbrough, was off the mark in the most unconventional fashion.
Mitrovic passed up a glorious opportunity to double the lead just two minutes later. He exploited some nervousness in the home defence to latch onto a Tosin Adarabioyo header, but having raced clear lashed his finish straight at Schofield with the whole goal to aim at. The hulking striker’s movement was certainly causing Huddersfield problems. He had a second goal chalked off midway through the first half when he headed home a fine Wilson cross but was adjudged offside.
Fulham were playing some lovely football in the final third with Wilson and Carvalho particularly prominent. The Welsh winger should have made it two instead of screwing a simple finish wide from close range after Carvalho had burst away from the Huddersfield defence – but the Whites weren’t rueing that glaring miss for too long. Bobby Decordova-Reid, recalled in place of Neeskens Kebano, flicked on a Wilson corner and Onomah’s cute header trickled under Schofield to give Fulham some breathing space.
Silva’s sides have proven susceptible at set plays in the past and that was Huddersfield’s immediate route back into a contest that was threatening to disappear away from them. Pearson buried a Thomas corner with a commanding header, but either he or centre back partner Naby Sarr could have nodded it beyond Gazzaniga such was the paucity of Fulham’s marking. The helter-skelter nature of the Championship was summed up by the way Silva’s side delivered an instant riposte. Onomah drove deep into Huddersfield territory and found Decordova-Reid in the area, the Jamaican’s fancy footwork outwitted a couple of defenders and created the space for Carvalho to restore Fulham’s two goal cushion with a measured finish.
It might have been four in stoppage time when Kenny Tete did superbly to find Mitrovic in the area, but the Serbian declined the chance to shoot and Schofield kept out a Wilson drive. The game was a little less stretched at the start of the second half, although both sides were still committed to going forward. Decordova-Reid drifted inside from the left but saw his shot comfortably gathered by Schofield, whilst Thomas fashioned a chance for Josh Koroma at the other end but Gazzaniga made a routine stop.
Some of the interchanges between Fulham’s front line were sublime and Silva’s charges went close to adding a fourth midway through the second half. Onomah, who has really taken to his adventurous midfield role in the opening weeks of the season, drove towards the edge of the box and slipped in Carvalho. The youngster was denied by Schofield only for Wilson to whack the follow up against the crossbar.
A competitive contest had threatened to turn fractious for a while as referee Dean Whitestone failed to punish some overzealous challenges. Wilson paid the price for kicking out at Levi Colwill after he had been crudely cut down by a late tackle, although the decision appeared very harsh to the naked eye. Fulham had a little over twenty minutes to survive with ten men, but there was little thought of sitting on their lead. Silva sent on Ivan Cavaleiro and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa and his compatriot had extended the lead within seconds – deftly dinking a finish over Schofield after being released by another outstanding through ball from Decordova-Reid.
Cavaleiro added a fabulous fifth in the fifth minute of stoppage time after being brilliantly found by Mitrovic. The former Wolves winger worked the angle for a lovely left-footed finish into the bottom corner wonderfully – dummying his way past Pearson and Sarr – to round off an astonishing away day.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-2-3-1): Schofield; Turton, Colwill, Pearson, Sarr; Hogg, Vallejo (High 45); Koroma, Thomas, Holmes (Rhodes 67); Ward (Campbell 45). Subs (not used): Bilokapic, Pipa, Lees, Brown.
GOAL: Pearson (41).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Tete, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Seri (Francois 86), Onomah (Anguissa 77); Wilson, Decordova-Reid, Carvalho (Cavaleiro 77), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Mawson, Bryan, Kebano.
SENT OFF: Wilson (71).
GOALS: Mitrovic (9), Onomah (37), Carvalho (43), Cavaleiro (78, 90+6).
REFEREE: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).